My name is Maria.
I have lived in the United States for almost thirty years. After arriving, I started and ran my own business, owned a home, raised a beautiful family, and loved my community.
Then, two years ago, I went to renew my driver’s license. The DMV employee threatened to call the police because I didn’t have a social security number. It wasn’t long until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was called and before I knew it, they deported me.
I was sent to Mexico – to the home where my mother had abused me throughout my childhood; where I had studied law and art until I was forced to escape my mother’s house; where I had returned, briefly, after leaving an abusive ex-husband.
Five days after I was deported to Mexico, I received a text from my violent ex-husband. He knew where I was. He was coming to find me.
I had no choice but to flee to the U.S. once again. This time, when I arrived, I was immediately placed in detention and removal proceedings.
Although I eventually won asylum, the Department of Homeland Security appealed my case. It was then that I was introduced to Tahirih’s legal team.
Fifteen months after arriving at the border, I was released from detention and met with my sponsor who welcomed me to California. Tahirih was there and ready to connect me with the resources I needed to get back on my feet.
Even after all this, my journey wasn’t over. I wanted to go home to Houston where I had a job lined up and could be with my family, but I needed my ankle monitor removed in order to do so.
I knew that that could only happen at an ICE office, but they had refused once already. This time, I brought my Tahirih attorney, Rachel. She explained to the ICE agents that I had relief under the Convention Against Torture. They told us to wait. So, we waited. And waited.
While we sat, I showed Rachel pictures of my children and grandchildren, all U.S. citizens. I wanted nothing more than to be with them again.
Finally, I was handed my paperwork. I signed. My ankle monitor was cut.
I turned to Rachel and told her, “I’m free.”
We walked out of the building. It was chilly. I reminded myself I was on my way to Houston. To warmth, to family, to a new job, to my home.