Juan was 16 years-old when he immigrated to the United States from Guatemala and settled in Lexington, Nebraska with his grandfather. With the help of Immigrant Legal Center Juan was not only able to obtain his Employment Authorization Document, or work permit but also his Lawful Permanent Residence card, or “green card.”
“It’s marvelous,” Juan said of having his green card. “It opens so many doors, I can work with no complications and I can even visit my home country.”
Juan was able to seek immigration relief through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) under his grandfather’s guardianship. SIJS is an option for children in the United States who cannot be reunited with one or both parents because of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. These findings are made by a U.S. state court who must find that it is not in the best interest of the child to be returned to his or her country of nationality.
Juan’s work permit allowed him to continue working while waiting for his visa.
“What impressed me the most about Juan, is that he didn’t quit school even though he was working at the same time,” said Ruth Maldonado, ILC’s Rural Capacity Building Paralegal and DOJ Accredited Representative. “He would go to school in the morning and work the B shift at a meat packing plant 4 p.m. through 12 a.m. or 1 a.m.”
Juan said Ruth’s encouragement and the encouragement of his attorneys helped him continue his studies. He said it was difficult going to school but with a lot of “esfuerzo” and “sacrificio” (effort and sacrifice), he was able to graduate high school.
“When I graduated, I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy when I got the diploma” Juan said. “I would go to school tired and my grades would be affected but God gave me strength and encouragement.”
Juan said he is thankful that Ruth and his ILC attorneys “fought” for him and for their encouragement throughout his case, including writing him letters about the progress of his case. Juan said he looks forward to obtaining his citizenship.
“Everything is possible,” Juan said. “Every sacrifice is worth it for your dreams.”