Rosa’s beaming smile, bright striped and floral-print dress, and magenta lipstick scream, “I’m here!” She’s dressed to impress, but Rosa just has a routine day planned. She had her phlebotomy class at Spokane Community College, and when she gets home she’ll have to deal with dinner, homework and bed time. It’s a day that most people would see as mundane, but Rosa’s living it out loud.
Allowing herself to be noticed is the relief Rosa found through working with the Immigration Legal Services program at Catholic Charities. Immigration Legal Services provides documented and undocumented immigrants with legal assistance and representation, like helping Rosa obtain her green card. The program supports family unity and community integration, which has been the biggest benefit the green card has given to Rosa. “I feel like I’m free,” she said. “I don’t have to be afraid no more.”
Twenty-eight years ago, Rosa was brought to the United States at the age of four by her parents. Her father, who was a police officer in the Mexican state of Colima, had just helped take down the leadership of a major cartel. He was attacked in retaliation, so he moved the family north to protect them. Although Rosa was safe from the cartel, she lacked documents and had to keep a low profile.
Rosa grew up in Chelan and relocated to Spokane after high school. In 2002 she tried to apply for a green card through her sister, but she never completed the challenging, time-consuming application for siblings. Rosa continued to live a fairly normal life—she got married and had two kids—but she felt like she could never live up to her full potential without legal status.
“I always had to settle for less but wanted to do more,” Rosa said, explaining why she finally applied for her green card. She went to several private lawyers for help, but they were all very expensive. In 2016, she looked at Catholic Charities, whose services were affordable and had helped her mom become a citizen.
She met with a Catholic Charities lawyer and began an application through her husband, who is a citizen. The complicated process took almost 2 years and included a thorough review of Rosa’s marriage, family and employment history. The final step required Rosa to travel to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, for an interview at the United States consulate. Rosa’s husband had to stay home with her kids, so she made the trip alone.
The interview only lasted 5 minutes. She learned right away that she had been approved for a green card. Rosa felt she had finally been welcomed into a place she had been all along.
“I’ve been [in America] 28 years,” Rosa said. “It’s my country.”
Finally secure in her legal status, Rosa is pursuing her dreams. She’s focusing on her medical studies and plans eventually to become a midwife. And in 3 years, she’ll be back at Catholic Charities applying for citizenship.