A Second Chance for a Mother and Daughter

Family Reunification

Lydia’s* mom left El Salvador when Lydia was around 11 years old. Lydia’s father was abusive toward her mother, and so her mother fled to the United States seeking better opportunities to provide for her children. Though Lydia was left behind, she felt confident that her dad would not hurt her. He had only been abusive toward her mother.

Lydia knew that her mom was supposed to be sending money back home to support her and her brother, but as the years passed, she began to question how the funds were being used. She believed that they were being spent on her dad’s girlfriend rather than her. Five years later, Lydia missed her mom so much that she headed to the United States unaccompanied. After being detained in Miami, she was sent to a shelter, where she gave authorities her mother’s contact information. As soon as she was contacted, her mom purchased a plane ticket for Lydia to come to Northern Virginia, her mom’s adopted home. The two were reunited after five years of separation – many years in the life of a child.

There were barriers to overcome – namely, Lydia’s status as a newly arrived immigrant. Through the law enforcement system, they were connected with the NVFS family reunification program. NVFS case manager Mary Ann Fuss immediately found counseling for the mother and daughter to help them get to know one another. Building a new relationship was difficult for both with the added nuances of cultural differences and adolescence. Fuss assisted them in getting a custody hearing – the first step in the process of having permanent status. They worked closely with attorneys who specialize in special immigrant juvenile cases.

Fuss helped Lydia register for school. Because Lydia spoke almost no English, she was placed in 10th grade bilingual classes. Knowing that future career opportunities would require English and a high school diploma, Lydia became determined to get her education in English. She worked hard to become fluent enough to transfer to all-English classes.

While attending to her studies and now with a green card in hand, Lydia got a restaurant job she could walk to so that transportation wouldn’t be a barrier. In June, Lydia graduated, confidently walking across the stage at Constitution Hall to receive her diploma. She invited her mother, Fuss, and two attorneys who had helped with the status process to the graduation ceremony and a special graduation dinner.

As Lydia stood proudly in her cap and gown at the restaurant, she gave a speech thanking these people who believed in her. She said that she never could have done it without NVFS’ family reunification program that helped her and her mother reconnect, heal and begin new paths. Working to save money this summer and fall, this resourceful young woman plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College to begin pursuing her dream of being a doctor – and her mother, having regained the joy of knowing her daughter, couldn’t be prouder.

*client name changed