[Please note: The Client’s name and case key details may have been altered to preserve the identity of the client. This Success Story is not intended to be an offer of service or case plan. Every case is unique. The Success Story is presented for information purposes only.]
In May of 2020, the Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC. Wong team in Columbus took part in a successful race against time to get an undocumented teenager from Mexico named Luisa “ward of court” status so she could stay in the United States under the guardianship and supervision of a kind woman named Diane, the mother of a friend of hers, with whom she had been living.
Luisa and her mother, Josefina, also undocumented, had been living in the southern part of Ohio for years where Josefina took any legitimate job that she could to support them. They moved several times due to employment opportunities and rent costs.
While attending high school, Luisa became a close friend of Maggie, Diane’s daughter, and began spending a lot of time at their home where the two young women, at Diane’s insistence, found the right balance between studying and having fun.
Eventually, Josefina received a job offer in another part of Ohio and, once again, planned to move. Luisa was very upset because she had been doing well in school and had come to love Maggie’s family who, in turn, loved her.
Therefore, Diane approached Josefina and extended to her an offer to let Luisa come live with them which Josefina agreed to because she knew her new job would require long hours of work and could appreciate her daughter’s wish for surroundings that were stable and nurturing.
After several months, Josefina’s contact with her daughter grew less and less while Luisa became like a sister to Maggie and a second daughter to Diane who grew increasingly concerned over Luisa’s undocumented status and feared, because of the policies of the current administration in Washington D.C., that the young woman that she had come to love might be subjected to seizure by ICE and ultimate deportation.
Of course, Diane, who took part social justice activities, had heard of the wonderful works of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC. Wong, and decided to call her Columbus office to discuss their situation and scheduled an appointment for the first part of May of 2020.
After hearing Luisa’s story and considering possible avenues, our team decided that the only feasible course of action would be to have Luisa declared a ward of the court and Diane declared her guardian. From there, we would file an I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) because, under the Special Immigrant heading, Luisa did fit into the category of “a juvenile who needs the protection of a juvenile court because they have been …abandoned…by a parent” since Josefina had not contacted her daughter for months.
Once the I-360 was granted, Diane could sponsor Luisa for a green card. The challenge would be that after Luisa turned eighteen, she would no longer qualify for ward of court status and her birthday was July 14th which was just a couple of months away. Plus, due to Covid-19, the courts were experiencing delays.
Nevertheless, the Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC. Wong team worked quickly and managed to contact Josefina who agreed to cooperate since she had been struggling with job demands and health issues and realized that this was best for Luisa. Subsequently, Josefina signed and completed a series of papers in which she surrendered custody of her daughter.
Accordingly, in the first week of June, we were able to drop the package off at the county court for filing even though the building was mostly closed to the public. A couple of days later, however, a conscientious court official called us to say that he had reviewed our documents and since the name of Luisa’s father appeared on her birth certificate, the father would have to agree to this arrangement too.
Even though, they had been separated for quite a while, Josefina had the contact information for Luisa’s father, Julio, who still lived in Mexico. She called him and Julio agreed to properly execute all papers if we would overnight them to him. By the end of June, we received the properly executed documents back from Julio.
After a quick review, we rushed the paperwork to the courthouse where they were accepted. Within a few days, proper summonses were issued for the hearing which was scheduled to take place virtually on July 6th just eight days before Luisa’s eighteenth birthday.
On this matter, Luisa thought it was funny that she received a separate summons which was required by law because she was over fourteen. In fact, she asked with a giggle if she and Diane, along with Maggie who wanted to be a part of all this, had to appear on separate computer screens or could the three of them sit in the living room and appear together on one screen?
Anyway, the hearing went fine, and Luisa was made a ward of the court which promptly appointed Diane to be her guardian. Next, we filed the I-360 which was approved at the beginning of December and started making plans for Diane to sponsor Luisa for legal permanent residency.
When we spoke to Diane in the middle of January, we learned that Luisa had completed high school and had earned almost straight “A’s”; was working parttime for a company that respected social distancing; and was researching various colleges that she might like to attend.