Lawyers help offset the destabilizing effects of detention for households and families: Valentina’s story

Valentina’s experience demonstrates how quickly household stability can deteriorate when a family member is detained. Valentina has deep ties to the United States, having lived here for 23 years. She and her husband raised a U.S. citizen daughter and two lawful permanent resident (LPR) sons here. Like her now-adult sons, who have lived here since they could barely walk, Valentina never naturalized, though she was long ago eligible and had recently started the process of becoming a citizen.

Valentina began the interview quite distressed, telling Vera researchers she was depressed and receiving mental health treatment following the recent events of her life. A few months earlier, her husband had died after battling cancer “all over his body.”

Soon after, her two adult sons were arrested by immigration authorities at her home. Since then, “the rent has not been forgiving,” as her sons had been supporting her following her husband’s death. Valentina spent much of the interview in tears, describing how she has lived in the same community, her home, for decades. She was now without money, alone, and often thought about how much her sons were suffering in detention during these “ugly times” in the United States.

Before her sons met their lawyer, she told us they were desperate, often saying they would just give up and return to Mexico—a country where they had not lived since they were small children. With the lawyer, Valentina’s sons had hope, and so did she, that the family would not lose everything.