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Help with Transportation, Rent, and Legal Assistance Keeps Life on Track for a Determined Father

By Nils Jacobsen

“Pascual,” a Guatemalan immigrant with lots of self-determination, has faced tremendous hurdles in his 28 years of life but always overcomes them with a smile. He arrived in Champaign in the spring of 2019 with his six year-old son, “Florentin.” They had fled their village in Huehuetenango in northern Guatemala after the father of his common-law wife threatened to kill him--even dousing him with gasoline--because he was poor and “Indian” and not good enough for his daughter.

After Pascual and his son were released by the Border Patrol in Texas, they came to Champaign and moved in with relatives. Pascual found work installing carpets and Florentin entered school. ISCU’s first contact with the family came in the fall of 2019 when Pascual called ISCU for a ride to take his sick son to the Frances Nelson medical clinic. We shared information about other resources and Pascual and his relatives responded enthusiastically when they heard about Project Read’s ESL courses, which provide activities for children during adult lesson times. ISCU volunteers drove the family to class week after week between November 2019 and January 2020. Another ISCU volunteer, a young U of I student, helped the family learn to navigate the MTD bus system: they installed the MTD app on Pascual’s phone and took him on a test ride to the grocery store (previously accessible only by taxi). In early 2020, ISCU helped Pascual to fill out an asylum application (I-589) and file it with the Immigration Court in Chicago.

Then the pandemic hit. Pascual lost five months of work, and so did his relatives. Survival became hard. ISCU helped Pascual and his family cover rent for four months and delivered food to their home every week from April to August 2020. Most importantly, ISCU continued to explore legal options and was able to connect Pascual to the legal team at the Immigration Project. The Project accepted Pascual and his son as pro bono clients, taking on the costly and complicated asylum case and filing for a work permit. Pascual was granted the permit in late 2020, dramatically improving his employment options.

Pascual has now returned to work installing carpets, but with a work permit he can protect himself from exploitation and receive benefits. And he is hopeful about being granted asylum, thanks to his expert legal representation. ISCU was there to help Pascual and his family through some rough stretches, but through these many months of hardship Pascual never lost his smile or his confidence in creating a better life for his son.



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