Welcome To America: An Immigrant’s Story - Maria Problems | Eatontown, NJ

Welcome To America: An Immigrant’s Story – Maria Problems

An immigrant Mother with a baby almost drown crossing the border to escape domestic violence

Andres Mejer Interview About Maria and the problems she may face applying for Asylum. 


Thanks for joining us again on Welcome to America and immigration story at Part Two of Maria’s story. If you missed part one, you want to go to our channel and watch it first so that you can get the most out of the segment. While you’re there. Be sure to like this video and subscribe to our channel so that you don’t miss out on some really great stories and information. Who knows, you might discover the solution to your own immigration problem and we might be saying to you, welcome to America.

Okay, first, a quick recap on the first part of Maria’s story. So Maria lives in Guatemala with her husband, who is a US citizen, her husband became abusive, so Maria fled to America with her youngest child, as the older child has cerebral palsy, and she left her behind with her grandmother. She had just crossed the border and was put on a bus heading to New York, where she hoped to connect with her aunt, who lives in New Jersey. Now to continue on with Maria’s story. I’m going to bring back Andras Mayer, New Jersey immigration attorney and immigration advocate to talk about the problems and challenges Maria will face and she arrives in New York.


Question 1

So Andres, I know everyone who watched the first part of Maria’s story is anxious to find out what happens to Maria and Mario next. But first, is this a common story? in immigrant woman fleeing her abusive husband? You know, and How’s her story, you know, different from others?

So, that’s a great question. It is, today, a very common story. We’re having huge numbers of immigrants presenting themselves at the border. A lot of them asking for asylum, legally, Maria’s story is not unique. Now, in some situations, maybe Maria is running away from an abusive spouse who’s part of a cartel, or maybe her spouse was killed, or maybe her parents or herself were threatened by a cartel. So this one’s a little different in that one, her husband is a US citizen. So that’s not as common when you’re outside the United States, and you’re married to a US citizen. But although it sounds like it’s uncommon, there are hundreds of cases that we’ve had like that. But it’s not so unusual, when you think of parents might have been here, had a child and then went back to their home country, with a child that maybe was two, three years old, that was 21, 22, and 25, and is a US citizen, maybe never been in his or her life in the US since that two year old. So in that sense, we have seen quite a few of them. But the majority of people like Maria are coming to file for asylum, which Maria can do, but she has another option that she liked me didn’t know, which is the Violence Against Women’s Act, the whole point of Violence Against Women’s Act is that no one should have to stay in an abusive relationship, only to achieve legal status. Now she’s coming because of the bad situation that you had. And it’s horrific. Domestic violence is, unfortunately, way too common in Latin American culture. I know I’m from Chile, my mother is from Chile. My father is from Argentina. I’m not saying that there wasn’t any domestic violence in our life ever. But for whatever reason, there’s a larger percentage of that in Latin American culture than there is in American culture. That That isn’t to say that there isn’t any in the US. Just look at our family courts. There are hundreds of cases of domestic violence in every single courtroom around the country. So this is a problem that happens everywhere. The question is, what relief do they have in their countries. And when you have a situation where you can’t go to the police, you can’t go to the courts, your family, maybe will not support you or protect you because your property of your spouse? Where are you going to go to another country, maybe that speaks your language that has the same problems, or you’re going to go somewhere where others have told you is welcoming to these types of problems, and you might have a better life. So Maria story, I have heard and seen 1000s of times. Hers is unique. VAWA now gives her an opportunity that a year ago she didn’t have because a year ago VAWA if you suffered domestic violence from your, in this case, US citizen spouse, that abuse had to have been in the US they had to have lived in the US together in order to be a beneficiary of our not anymore. That’s not the case. So she didn’t know it. First of all, both of her kids are US citizens. Right, so her son Mario does not need asylum. He’s a US citizen. And if the office or is aware, they will look at it Wait a minute, you’re married to US citizen. You have something other people don’t now, customs and borders, authorized officers are not trained attorneys. This is not a scenario they see on a regular basis. So they may not even be aware that that’s an option, but they will definitely look at it with this is a little different. Your kids have a US passport. How is it that you don’t owe your spouse is huh, she’s more likely to be admitted. And she’s more likely to be given the opportunity to fight our case. Now, where we are today, still under COVID. Rules, title 42 still exists, which means the majority of immigrants that are presented themselves at the border are being automatically rejected and denied under COVID rules. Now, there have been litigation, so unaccompanied women, or children are given the opportunity to present their case, whereas a single man might not be even if he’s married. So she has that opportunity. And on top of it, if they recognize the VAWA component makes her case more compelling, and more likely to be admitted. And given her day in court. Even if she would have otherwise been rejected because of title 42,


Question 2

Then I think that’s really interesting how you, you basically unpack that, look, a lot of times people think that they qualify for one thing, or they were told, and we look at the nuances of the law, and you say, hey, actually, it looks like it’s going to be a better type of this case. And that makes sense.

One of the most common comments I get when I meet with first time prospects is well, you know, I’ve met with a lot of attorneys. Why is it no one ever told me that before? Yeah. When I say hey, you have VAWA? For example, I’m using VAWA as an example. But maybe it’s a U Visa, maybe it’s specially with a juvenile like you’re the fourth or fifth or sixth attorney I’ve met with why is it no one told me that I had this option? In other words, are you telling me the truth? Yeah, hopefully. It’s almost too good to be true. And I don’t have a good answer for them. All I can say is we look at it holistically. Okay, we follow what I call the 953 method, because I made it up. So I got to name it. There are nine principle paths to legal status. VAWA is one asylum is another, then we look at okay, now that you have a path, what your past might disqualify you. Maria has never been here before. She has no criminal record. So there’s nothing that disqualifies her. But what happens if she had filed for a visa? And maybe she was she filed incorrectly? Maybe she lied. Maybe you said she was single? She was married or married when she was not that could affect her? Maybe she had a prior application for something. Maybe she was here previously and was reported. So whatever we have to look at, is there a path that is there something in her past that could disqualify her, there are five principal things. And if she has one of those five, there are one of three ways that we could fix it. We don’t accept any client that doesn’t, that we can’t answer all of those. So in Maria situation, she has a path she has to VAWA and asylum, both of those will result in a green card, nothing to disqualify her. So she has a good path forward. What are we talking about when we say VAWA? VAWA is similar to a family based application, I call it a step cousin, or a step sibling, I guess is more appropriate, family based application, we’re saying, hey, the US citizen is your parent, spouse or child filing for the immigrant. And we need to prove that they’re a US citizen, we need to prove that relationship is legitimate, particularly in a marriage context, immigration always assumes that it’s a fraudulent marriage. And the onus is on us to show that’s not the case. Now, there’s two children born to the marriage. So proving that it was a legitimate relationship. Not overly difficult here, but we also have to show that she’s a good moral person, and VAWA adds extreme cruelty. So domestic violence is a really good example of that. But how do you prove domestic violence when you don’t have a police report? When you’re running away from your country, you don’t usually stop to get medical reports to get photographs to get other evidence to show how you would treat it. Now we know Maria took photos of that awful beating that she had. So she actually has evidence that others might not. So she has a really solid Bower. How does that differ for asylum? Asylum needs to prove that she fears persecution in her home country means there’s no place in our country where bad things will happen to her. Why does she go to another town while her husband can find her? He has resources He has means he travels all over the place. Okay? Afraid of who the government or group the government can control here it’s more of society and how society treats women as property. And three, why it has to be for a protected reason, race, religion, nationality, political opinion, a particular social group. And that’s in the context of a trial. So it’s really difficult to show why bad things are going to be happening. Okay, so I suffered abuse, I was treated for me. Why was I treated poorly? If I walk out of my street and I get mugged, that could happen any city, any state country? Why should the US treat you differently, and give you protection in the US than anybody else? So asylum is harder to prove, because the nexus of the fear the past persecution, and the reason why it happened in VAWA, the challenge here is going to be how do I prove he’s a US citizen? I mean, did she take a copy of his birth certificate, showing that it was brought to the United States or his passport, or maybe marriage license, which in some countries, it shows the husband and where he was born? Those are all ways that we’ve used to prove that someone is a citizen. It’s kind of ridiculous, right? I’m applying to USCIS. And I have to prove that he’s a US citizen. You mean, you government? Don’t know. Here’s his social look up. Why do I have to do that? Unfortunately, that is one of the things that we have to do.


Question 3

When it comes to Maria, I want to jump into first person here. So when we’re gonna finally get to your, are they going to welcome her with open arms? How will she be received? And what’s likely the process that she’ll have to go through?

Nothing quite so grandiose. Unfortunately, well, I mean, what are we talking about here? She was interviewed by Customs Border Patrol. She was released, probably put it to removal or parole? What are those two, she was paroled, she can file for Employment Authorization immediately. But there aren’t that many people that do that, given her husband was a US citizen, and she has to us as a children, maybe she will do. But most don’t get that opportunity. Most don’t can’t file for Employment Authorization. So they put her on on a bus. And she’s on her own. Now, where’s she going to go and how she going to get there that’s on her. She doesn’t speak the language. That’s not even talking about if she gets put on a bus by Governor Abbott Abbott from Texas, or governor DeSantis from Florida on a plane and just said somewhere told one thing and then find reality is totally very different. So maybe there might be an agency waiting. But more often than not, there’s no one waiting. And she gets there. And she has to figure out how she’s gonna go to the next place. So she has to you have to call her and, and make arrangements to now answer New Jersey. She’s in New York, probably important authority. Not that big a deal. But imaginary. It was in California, and she’s now in New York, how does she get there? So that falls on the family that falls on her? Unfortunately, I wish that was not the case. But that is our reality.


Question 4

You know, it makes me wonder I mean, do they? Well, immigration officials in New York at least allow her to contact her on like, will she be able to stay with her on eventually, you know, how does that work? Exactly.

So if somebody is a minor, they’re treated through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. So the process is if she’s underage, which she isn’t, but if she was underage, she within 72 hours, she gets transferred from CBP to Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of Health and Human Services. Now, they either place her with an agency or foster parent, or most likely an agency, or they find a relative or someone that’s willing to take responsibility, in which case they touch base with that individual, they make sure that there’s not a criminal they don’t have whether they’re documented or not, is not really a criteria. It’s are they placing a child in a dangerous environment. So persons who have to show up maybe get fingerprinted. So there is some risk if they’re undocumented. That’s why ideally should be someone who’s a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. However, Maria’s context, she’s an adult, that’s not going to happen. She gets released, she’s on a roll. And she’s going to tell me told a give us her address, we’re going to mail you a court notice when you have to appear, and you need to appear. Also, you’re going to have a date and time when you’re going to present yourself to ice. And you’re gonna have to comply with whatever requirements that they provide. Maybe it’s giving you an ankle monitoring, maybe it’s giving you a phone, the check in, they make the decision under what conditions they’re gonna allow you to be released. Generally mom with her child, probably not an ankle monitor or yourself for a very short period of time. We’re seeing more phones and checks.


Question 5

We talked about I believe title 42 And my quick stat 42. Yes. Okay, so we talked about title 42. And we talked about the fact that there seems to be some, you know, like a nebulous cloud over how they’re handling immigrants right now with the busing and the conflict from a state by state basis. You know, how’s that playing right now, when it comes to deportation, you know, what are the chances she’ll be deported right away or held in a detention center for a long period of time?

Well, given her situation, she should not be detained for a long period of time, mom with children can separate the children can’t put a child into detention. So she likely won’t be held for very long, but let’s say she was on her own. Well, and let’s say she had an order of removal, or she had prior denied entries, or she has crimes, maybe her abusive spouse made her do certain things. That makes it very difficult. And under those circumstances, she may very well be detained until their cases resolved. Because she has VAWA and asylum, the issue is going to be how she’s going to prove it when she’s detained. That’s hard. She’s not going to have her phone on her. She might not have those photos. What documents does she have who’s going to help her without an attorney, it becomes very difficult for her to prove her case. She can’t just show up to a judge that, Your Honor, my husband’s a US citizen, and I’m a victim of abuse. And I’m going to file for Ababwa she won’t even know about why is. So getting the right help at the right time is incredibly important. But Maria will get through that relatively easily. Today, I can’t tell you that will be the case in a year or two years or three years under this administration. She will be released relatively quickly. Does that mean a week does that mean two weeks, it really depends on the detention center, and how long it takes the processor, given the large number of people that are coming at the border. They’re inundated. So things are taking longer than it should be. Conditions are not great. She’s not being put in a Ritz Carlton. I’ve been to some of those detention centers. I’ve been to some of those jails. They’re not pleasant places to visit, let alone to be in.


Question 6

So you mentioned that her husband was a US citizen. Yes. So it makes me wonder about Bala. I mean, if her husband was in the US system, would you still have a shot?

Well, she’d be filing for the sun. Okay, and so our key case would not be as strong. But we just want one of those last week, a case based on domestic violence. Family came in in February, had their trial, end of August, September. No, I’m sorry, end of September, and one. Now, they have two children still in Guatemala, their home country. So now, those kids will go through a process called follow to join. were recognizing that they want asylum, that children have to be processed. So it’s another application, they have to they have to be taken to the embassy. So someone needs to do that. And then they’ll be brought to the United States. That becomes challenging. How do you do that? That’s not easy. That’s gonna be the kids are with someone so that someone is going to have to help. Usually it’s the grandparents.


Question 7

Yeah. And you know, it’s interesting you say that, because I feel I don’t know about you. But I feel like every day on the news, I’m seeing something about people being bussed every which way, and now they’re talking about when they get to their destination, whether it be Chicago or somewhere else, they’re getting bugged yet again. And so, you know, it really makes me wonder, you know, what happens next? So once they get there, where, let’s say, after all of this, they find home, they find their family, they get with them? What can you know, what could they do next? What’s the next step?

They’re gonna have to find a way to support themselves. So first is where am I going to live right? Then how am I going to support myself now if she was paroled, she can get employment authorization, but the majority of people are not, which means they don’t have work authorization. Now, when you file for asylum. It used to be 150 days later, you can file for work authorization, and the government had 30 days to adjudicate meaning within six months of filing an application, you should have work authorization under Trump. They made it a year and they wanted to get rid of the 30 days requirement to adjudicate there’s been litigation. Now it’s, it seems like it’s gonna go back 250 days. That will happen soon. But it hasn’t happened yet. But still, you arrived here in New York day one, what do you do? Well, you need to find a place to stay. Church, friends, family, someone, you need to find a job. Well, how do I do that? I remember social or an employment authorization. It means unfortunately, you’re going to take a cash paying job. You’re going to be doing something you might not want to do. I met with with a client. She’s a dentist in our country. She’s cleaning homes now. You know, so this affects everyone in every walk of life. I’ve met attorneys I’ve met Doctors, I’ve met engineers that because of political circumstances, now, they were out of Venezuela. You know, we hear what’s going on in Venezuela. But it’s not limited to that, where we’re not just talking about someone that came to United States, because of better job opportunities. We’re talking about people, high class had an excellent way of life. And all of a sudden, their life blew up, for reasons out of their control. And they’re having to start over. Now, if they’re younger, that’s easier. If they’re older, that’s hard. There is no game plan. But they have to figure out where they’re gonna live, they got to figure out where they support themselves, and then they have to find an attorney. And depending on how quick their court is, they might need to get an attorney first. But the problem is, how do you get an attorney when you don’t have $2, to your name, and you don’t know where you’re gonna live? Again, it’s not easy. And some people have it harder. If they have friends or family that can at least give them a place to stay and explain the lay of the land, then they’re going to find a job quicker, they’re going to find a place to live quicker, and they’re going to be in a better position to help themselves. But not everyone is so fortunate. Sometimes they go on a friend of a friend, and maybe their friend of a friend isn’t the best person maybe tries to take advantage of them make a bad situation worse. It’s difficult. Going from one country to another is difficult, leaving everything you’ve had is difficult. I know I lived twice he there twice in Israel twice in the US. I’ve been there without $2 to your name, not know where you’re going to do or what you’re going to do. Where are you going to live? Or how are you going to work and not even speaking the language? I’ve been there. It’s not easy. There’s no shortcuts? If you’re such think about how bad is your life need to be in your home country to willingly put yourself in this situation. People think oh, they’re all criminals, or they’re just coming here for the take our jobs, they’re coming here because they may not have a life if they stay. And anything they put up with here is better than that, because at least there’s a chance they’ll survive. Yeah, that’s how bad it is. And that’s some of the unfortunate reality.


Question 8

I think that here in the United States, there is a bit of a bubble. We don’t we take things for granted, basic amenities and human rights that people just aren’t getting around the world. And it really makes me wonder to that you mentioned about how they support themselves. I mean, you know, are there any government programs for someone in her situation?

Generally, no. Now, if you’re filing for power, you can get government assistance right away. But you got file, if you’re filing for a green card based in the Philippines application, you don’t get that benefit. So in our scenario, she’s going to get work authorization, she’s going to be entitled to public assistance immediately. Now, again, her situation, her son is a US citizen, her son will get government assistance. Right away. WIC, food stamps, you name it, like any other American would be entitled to the moment she files for VAWA, she will also be entitled to those benefits. Not true for asylum. 


Question 9

And then on the children part, right. So Mario and I will be young for school, but I mean, a few school aged I mean, could he attend school and those maybe 

There are elements in our society that are trying to change that. But there’s a Supreme Court decision that says you can’t discriminate against immigrants. So if an immigrant wants to go to school, now, some schools give you difficulty in saying, Hey, you gotta prove that undresses address. How can I prove I am who I am if I had a passport, but the government took it away, I had a birth certificate, but the government took it away. So proving who you are, sometimes can get complicated. But there’s solutions to that. And yes, Mario’s to now, look as to Mario’s about six months old, he’s not going to school anytime soon. But if he was of age, he’d be entitled to the same public school system that my kids wouldn’t be.


Question 10

That’s a really a lot of people when they come, I mean, it’s their children and the future of their children that they’re really after, and be able to at least get them into the program that must give them a sense of relief. As soon as she has been released and possibly given a court date. What should she do now? At that point?

Well, she’s gonna have to go to court, but she shouldn’t go to court without an attorney. Okay. Right. So she again, find places to find a job, and then find counsel, to figure out, I wish to say wouldn’t be in that order. But I met people that are in the country, two weeks, usually they’re staying at a friend’s house and a friend puts them in touch with us or a family relative, but they’re not in a position to hire us. They’re just saying, Well, what do I do? And we guide them and we tell them what they need to do, but they’re gonna have to go to court, and they’re gonna have to start setting up new life here.


Question 11

Now. I guess the big question, right is, you know, tell me what she shouldn’t do. Right. I mean, if you think about it, I mean, it seems like the government’s just trying to find ways to kind of catch you up here. And that’s my interpretation.

She shouldn’t commit any crimes right shouldn’t break the law? No different than anyplace else. That’s really what it amounts to don’t commit fraud. Look, I, I’ve met many of people that, unfortunately, because of their circumstances, they go and they steal a jar of milk or something or diapers for their kids. And now that $5 item becomes a $4,000, legal bill $1,000 fee for the court. And maybe I’m exaggerating, it wouldn’t happen on an $8 item. But you get you get my point. All of a sudden, the necessity of the moment, solving a short term problem becomes a long term problem, because if they’re convicted, now it negatively affects the chance to get asylum Ababa. Now, they’re not good and well, people and maybe government will deny their case because of a poor decision made in the moment because your child is crying and you don’t have any money and you do what you need to do.



Wow, that was a lot of great information. It sounds like Maria will have some tough times at first, but it also sounds like there’s some permanent solutions available to her as well. Next time I welcome to America, we’re going to take a deeper dive into VAWA and touch on asylum claims and options for Maria’s daughter Lupe. She’s the one with cerebral palsy back from Guatemala. Be sure to like and subscribe to this channel so you don’t miss next week’s show dedicated to solving these immigration problems and more if you have your own immigration problem in life. Tell us about it. In the comment section. We may feature your story in future episodes. Stay tuned and welcome to America. See you soon. Thank you

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