Local community members are working to assist a family that recently fled violence in Mexico by creating a GoFundMe page to pay for their legal fees.
New Times isn't using the names of the mother, her 14-year-old daughter, or her 10-year-old son as they are currently in the process of seeking asylum or a U-visa.
Julie Jones, creator of the Brave Mom, Hopeful Children GoFundMe page, said the family came to the United States in April 2018 fleeing violence in Mexico. Due to a misunderstanding, the family's asylum status is up in the air and they need funds to pay for legal assistance.
They were regularly attending monthly appointments at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Santa Maria to notify them of their presence in the state while they awaited a court hearing.
During that time, Jones said, the family stayed in a room in someone's home. On June 26, the 14-year-old daughter was attacked by a woman with a knife, according to court documents. The incident resulted in the family moving and notifying the ICE office of their address change, however ICE didn't pass that information onto the Los Angeles Immigration Court.
Jones said the court mailed the family's asylum hearing date to their old address. When the family went to their regular monthly meeting, which was scheduled during the government shutdown, the ICE office was closed, and the family wasn't notified of their court hearing date.
Jones said this put the family's immigration status in jeopardy. They are currently working with a lawyer to hopefully secure an asylum status or a U-visa. She learned about the family through a former student—Jones taught a master's counseling class at the University of La Verne—Karla Robles, who's a counselor with the San Luis Coastal District, where the children go to school.
She met the 10-year-old boy at school, and Robles said he felt comfortable enough to tell her his story.
Robles said Jones and other community members have been working together to help the family.
"Its important because if a student doesn't feel safe and cared for and supported, we can't ask them to learn when we know they're coming in with trauma," she said.
The mother's husband, Jones said, was assaulted and killed by an unknown group of gang members for his truck. Days later, the mother was approached by an unknown individual accusing her of working with the local police department to identify the gang members who killed her husband, Jones said.
The family fled to the U.S., asked for asylum, and moved to San Luis Obispo.
"Contrary to what the president says about immigrants, specifically about Mexican people, this mom and her children, they are not criminals, they are not rapists, they are not stealing jobs away from people. In fact, they came here, and they became victims of violence themselves, her daughter, especially, and it affects their entire family unit," Robles said. Δ