Our Client of the Month for April 2014 is Jose Menjivar Mercado, who became a lawful permanent resident of the United States on March 25, 2014. Jose’s story is an inspiring tale of courage and perseverance that took him from an abusive home in Honduras to a loving adoptive family – and ultimately a green card – in America. Jose was abandoned by his mother as an infant and raised by his grandmother, the only loving relative he had ever known. But when Jose was 10 years old his grandmother died of leukemia, and he was sent to live with an aunt who treated him cruelly, forced him to drop out of school to beg for money, and regularly kicked him out of the house to fend for himself on the streets. Young and small for his age, he was often approached by gangs and even considered joining them, out of fear and desperation. But he resisted and continued to hope for a brighter future.
After three years of abuse by his aunt and older male cousins, at the age of 14 he decided to run away and try to make it to the U.S. to find his other aunt, Reyna, who lived in Virginia. He walked and sometimes hitchhiked from Honduras through Guatemala and El Salvador and Mexico, until he reached the U.S. border. Along the way, he was attacked and beaten, often slept under trees and next to railroad tracks, and tried to befriend groups of adults who might protect him during the treacherous journey. After finally crossing the border near San Antonio, he and his fellow travelers were stopped by U.S. Border Patrol and taken into custody. Jose contacted his aunt Reyna, who arranged for him to travel to Virginia and welcomed him into her home.
However, Jose missed his Immigration Court hearing and ended up with an in absentia order of removal. A neighbor in Virginia, who was moved by Jose’s plight, contacted the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) to ask for help, and USCRI in turn contacted Thomas Ragland. Thomas and his legal team took Jose’s case pro bono, succeeded in reopening his case before the Immigration Judge, guided his aunt through the legal adoption process in Virginia family court, and applied for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status on Jose’s behalf. Once the SIJ petition was granted, the Benach Collopy team moved to terminate removal proceedings and applied for adjustment of status before USCIS. Jose attended his adjustment interview on March 25, 2014, and he was granted permanent resident status that same day. Ten years after the death of his loving grandmother, and more than five years after he walked away from a life of abuse and despair in Honduras, Jose and his loving adoptive family – especially his remarkable aunt Reyna – could celebrate his status as a U.S. green card holder. A tremendous achievement for an extraordinary young man. Congratulations Jose!