Hundreds of people are impacted every year by the generosity of San Antonio Region Justice For Our Neighbors donors. The financial donations we receive allow us to provide high quality immigration legal services to low-income immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers looking for safety inside the borders of the United States.
Each client story is different but they all seem to have a common thread: HOPE. By receiving free and low-cost legal services from SARJFON, our clients are given HOPE. Hope for a safe future, hope for stability and hope of becoming a legal resident.
HOPE is given through your financial donations. Your generosity shows our clients that someone cares. Someone values their life and sees them as important. For many clients this is the first time they have felt HOPEFUL.
Thank you for being a beacon of HOPE for our struggling neighbors.
Stories of how your donation provides hope.
Story of the Week – Ainoa
Growing up in Central America was difficult for Ainoa. She lived in extreme poverty but was close to extended family. She had a loving mother and father she thought supported her dreams. At the tender age of 14, Ainoa’s life was turned upside down. “I was raped and impregnated by a family member. My parents were terrified by this because of the scandal. They blamed me for the rape and ordered me to give birth. It was a miserable time for me, especially that my parents blamed me for a rape,” she remembers.
As soon as Ainoa delivered her daughter the little bundle was ripped from her arms and given to her mother. Her family raised the child as Ainoa’s sister. “I was told that this was the only way not to embarrass the family in our community. I have lived in agony over this situation,” Aiona said.
Aiona left her village as soon as she could. She couldn’t stand living the lie every day or feeling the disgust of her parents. One day she met a man she thought would bring her joy and comfort forever. Sadly, that changed once she was living in the United States with him.
Within a short time, the sexual, emotional and physical abuse began. Finally, after many years Aiona decided to give herself a gift for her birthday – time away from him. “The worst day of the sexual inspections occurred in April. On the days leading to my birthday, I decided to stay at my best friend’s house. I just wanted to be at peace and not worry about him, or anything. He called me several times around this time. I did not answer any of his calls or texts. The day after my birthday, I returned home to find him waiting for me in front of our trailer,” remembers Aiona.
Aiona tells of the horrible name calling and allegations of infidelity made. But she said, that was nothing compared to the sexual abuse that followed. “He threw me on the bed and told me he would check to see if I had been unfaithful. I was crying. I asked him not to touch me. He kept on insulting me. He finally pulled my pants and underwear down forcefully and shoved his hand into me. It hurt so much. I cried, but he just ignored my pain and cries. I begged him to stop but he did not. He left after he ‘inspected’ me, and I just continued crying. I never felt so low, so worthless, so broken, and so alone,” Aiona recalled with tears streaming down her face.
Wiping the tears away Aiona said she never told anyone about the abuse she experienced regularly. She was afraid telling anyone would make life at home worse. A few friends she confided in encouraged her to report the abuse to law enforcement. One friend had learned about the Violence Against Women Act and the U visa for victims of crimes and secured an appointment for her at San Antonio Region Justice For Our Neighbors.
It took months for Aiona to tell her lawyer everything. But with each piece of information, her petition was amended and made stronger. “As an attorney I should not show emotion,” said Anacletus Gyinia, SARJFON Legal Director. “But as soon as Aiona would leave the office I would put my face in my hands and cry.”
“Every time I think about it, I feel very depressed, very sad and lonely,” said Aiona. “Because I could not talk to anyone about it. I was always so afraid it would make things even worse. These acts, together with the words he used to describe me, hurt me, and make me lose self-worth. This is the first time I am sharing this experience too.”
“But today, I know I have worth,” she said. “The people at SARJFON gave me hope. They showed me I am important. People who don’t know me think I am deserving of a good lawyer who cares even though I have no money. I will thank them by making a good life for myself and hopefully helping someone else,” Aiona told me with her head held high and a glimmer of hope peaking out over the tears.
Names and likenesses have been changed to protect the identity of our clients.