Last week Romy Lerner won a hard-fought victory on behalf of her client, a Bond Fund recipient. Ms. Lerner is an attorney at FIAC, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center; and her client is now a Lawful Permanent Resident.
“This is an unusual case for us,” says Bond Fund Chairman Bob Hildreth, “We generally focus on community-wide response to immigration enforcement tactics such as raids, or cooperative agreements with local police. But sometimes an individual’s circumstances are so horrendous that we must step forward.”
Ms. Lerner’s client “Marie” came to the United States from Haiti as a very young child. She was physically and verbally abused by her mother, and pushed out of the house when she was only 14. Before long, Marie was a teenage mother with an abusive partner. She had no legal status in the US, even though her mother, or the father of her children, could have applied on her behalf.
The father was violent toward Marie, and created an unsafe environment for their children. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) took the children from their home. The situation grew more desperate when, in a separate matter, Marie was picked up by local police and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE detained her and set a bond she could not pay.
“It was a catch-22 situation,” said her attorney Ms. Lerner, “she could not appear in family court to get custody of her children while she was in ICE detention, and it would be hard to prove her immigration case without custody of the children. She needed to get out of detention to protect her parental rights and apply for cancellation.”
Ms. Lerner believed her client had a strong case for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) cancellation of removal, based on the abuse she had suffered as a child and with her partner. DCF had records documenting Marie’s violent childhood.
The Bond Fund loaned the money for Marie to get out of ICE detention. With Ms. Lerner’s assistance, she now has lawful status, and permission to work in the United States. Ms. Lerner says, “She is getting her life back together, looking for work, and endeavoring to take care of her young children, now ten, nine, and seven years old. Its been a tremendous struggle, but the help of the Bond Fund made everything a little easier.”
“We could not have done it without the people who support the Bond Fund,” said Mr. Hildreth. Now that Marie’s immigration case is closed, the bond money will be returned to the Fund, and available to help the next person.