José Espinal, a client of the Immigration Services program, carries himself with a surprising degree of assuredness for being only 17 years old. However, once learning how he came to the United States by himself as a child, the source of his confidence becomes clearer.
Living in Honduras without support of his family, José, then ten years old, decided to move to the United States. After an arduous journey traveling through Central America, while being chased by men in Mexico, he finally made it to Laredo, where a man helped him across the border.
“Thank God that he did help me and brought me here to New Orleans,” José reflects on the turning point in his life.
José spent the next several years working on construction sites to provide for himself, occasionally receiving help from others who would offer him food, teach him job skills, or give him work.
José found living by himself at such a young age, without family support, difficult. “I was very depressed knowing that I didn’t have anything around me because I wanted a family and didn’t have it… I had to work and try harder so I could have what I needed, because, otherwise how was I going to have a roof over my head or food?”
José heard about an organization called ‘Catholic Charities’ and their monthly community legal orientation. These information sessions equip children and their sponsors with knowledge of their rights and responsibilities in court as well as potential forms of relief from deportation.
“Honestly, I was a little skeptical,” said José. He thought the opportunity must be too good to be true. “I learned that the people [at Catholic Charities] I came to trust in were speaking to me honestly and responding by helping me, and I believe in the program because I have seen the results. That’s what I’m grateful for: the people that are here who make one believe.”
I am very appreciative of this program, and I don’t have the words to express my gratitude.
Now after seven years of living in the United States, José has reached a milestone in achieving his dream of living and working in America. “I have been able to receive something that I can’t believe at times, which is my legal status… I am very appreciative of this program, and I don’t have the words to express my gratitude.”
José has received not only legal assistance but, with our help, is attending school for the first time and recently received his permit to work. José’s dream is to study engineering. “I am really surprised by the services. At the start of last year, when I started studying, they told me they were going to help with supplies, school uniforms, and that has really been a huge support for me.”
Furthermore, José appreciates the help not only from the attorney and staff working directly with him, but also from our community who supports our Immigration Services program. He reflects “that the help one gets here is because there are people who are willing to help and have the heart to give that support to someone.” He, too, plans to start his own family, something he has never had, and to follow in the footsteps of those who cared for him.