As anti-immigrant rhetoric spreads across the United States, we continue to meet people in all walks of life knocking our doors and asking for assistance. After addressing one particularly challenging case, we felt that it demonstrated the complex reality that new immigrants struggle with as they make America their new home. Today, we would like to share Jacob’s story with you.
This is a real story, shared with permission from our client, although names used are not their real names.
When I first met Jacob, he didn’t make eye contact or say much. His cousin Amy shared with me that Jacob had suffered severe physical and mental abuse at the hands of his uncle. It took a few meetings for him to open up, but we finally bonded over ice-cream and K-pop. Jacob was only 3 years old when his mother left, and his father sent him away to live with relatives. Jacob lived with his uncle and aunt, but he never considered them his family. His uncle constantly reminded Jacob that he was a burden to him and treated him like an outsider. As Jacob got older, his uncle would express his disapproval by beating him and withholding food for days.
In the middle of his sophomore year of high school, Jacob finally tried to stand up to his uncle’s abuse, but this led to more violence and Jacob forced out of the home. Without anywhere to go, Jacob borrowed money from friends to find his cousin, Amy living in the United States. After hearing about Jacob’s situation, Amy called us for advice. Amy had received assistance with her DACA application at KRC and hoped Jacob could find help too. After assessing his case, we determined that Jacob was eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) which allows immigrant children in the state juvenile system who cannot reunify with their parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect to obtain lawful permanent immigration status.
With KRC’s help, Jacob filed his application and now has his work authorization. He is attending school and working part-time at a local coffee shop. The first time we met Jacob, he barely spoke or looked anyone in the eyes. Today, he looked me straight in the eyes and shared that his life is filled with hope, and not fear.
Jacob is not alone in his situation. Many undocumented immigrant children and youth suffer from abuse and abandonment. Every day at KRC, we help young people apply to programs like DACA and SIJS and develop young immigrants and people of color to powerful leaders for pro-immigrant policies that protect people like Jacob. But we cannot do this alone - your help and support is of vital importance.
This Fall, you can empower immigrant communities by joining our Anniversary Gala fundraiser event. Will you join me in cultivating a transformative future for America?
Attorney and Immigration Legal Services Director
Korean Resource Center
* Do you need assistance with DACA renewals, SIJS or other immigration legal services? Visit our website or call 323.205.4187.