The positive effects of representation have a ripple effect that extends far beyond the immigration court case: Juan and Paula’s story

Often, the hope and positive outcomes that came with representation had stabilizing effects on clients’ financial situations, physical and mental health, and the physical and mental health of their family members. Juan and Paula’s story illustrates this point.

Juan’s detention took his family by surprise, leading to what his wife Paula described as “a complete 180” overnight. Juan and Paula described a tight-knit, stable family that didn’t have financial worries and was “always together” doing activities. Paula explained they were “dumbfounded” when one night, soon after speaking to his wife on his phone, Juan was pursued and apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers while driving home from work. He had recently decided he wanted to expand his job possibilities and applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) after consulting with a private attorney who told him an arrest from his youth would not be an issue. Instead, it triggered a warrant for his apprehension by ICE.

Juan’s detention took his family by surprise, leading to what his wife Paula described as “a complete 180” overnight.

After Juan was suddenly taken into detention, things became very stressful for the family. At just seven years old, one of the children took on worrying about the family’s well-being, and needed counseling to help with his stress. He was too young to understand how finances work, but was concerned the family would not be able to afford food, so had been offering to do extra chores around the house and was saving up the money Paula paid him to give back to her. The stress of losing the family’s income affected Paula too, who described how she started “blanking out, losing focus, getting rashes.”

Juan’s ties to the community helped the family turn things around. His longtime employer helped connect them to a free lawyer. After hearing about Juan’s detention, a frequent patron of his workplace set up a fundraiser to help pay the bond Juan had been granted and support the family to rebuild financially.

At the time of the interview, Juan’s case was still pending. However, his lawyer had given Juan’s family hope that they would not lose everything simply because Juan had tried to legalize his status by pursuing DACA without realizing the impact of his youthful infraction. The lawyer, Juan says, “is like a big dad. It’s like having your dad next to you,” reassuring him as the family attempts to rebuild some stability.