The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Getting My Green Card

I came to the United States illegally from Honduras with my cousins and grandma when I was 8. I never really knew there was a difference between having legal documents and being undocumented. I thought my life was just like any other kid’s: I had freedom to go to school and to live anywhere and go anywhere.

It wasn’t until I was 14 and went into foster care that I realized being documented was really important. I visited my Legal Aid lawyer a few days after I got into the system. She explained to me that I needed to have a green card or I could be deported (sent back to my country).

That really scared me. I didn’t want to go back to Honduras; I was already used to living in the United States. I also worried that they would deport my mother because she didn’t have any legal documents. If that happened, I thought, my siblings (who are U.S. citizens but not Honduran citizens) would have to stay in foster care here in the U.S. with neither my mom nor me nearby to look after them. That would separate us even more than foster care already had.

My lawyer explained that because I was in the foster care system, they would be able to help. They just needed to get in touch with immigration lawyers who helped kids in the foster care system get their green card. She also explained to me that this was going to be a long process, and it was.

Limited Time

After six months, I finally met with the lawyer who was going to help me get my green card. I was so eager to hear what she had to say. In my head I thought that just by seeing the lawyers a few times I would get my green card and that it was probably going to take a month or so.

At our meeting, the lawyer told me that I only had a limited period of time to get the green card. After I turned 18 they wouldn’t be able to help me, unless I was adopted by my foster mother or going to stay in foster care until I aged out at 21.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay in foster care until I was 21, but I didn’t think that going back to my mom’s house would be good for me. Living with her had been hard. Things were very complicated between us and we fought a lot. So at that point, I preferred to stay in my foster home.

I left the lawyer’s office not knowing what to do. I thought about it over and over again on my way back home. I knew I wanted to get my green card, but talking with my mom about that meant I also had to talk to her about wanting to stay in care. I didn’t know how she was going to feel about that.

What Was Best for Me?

As soon as I got home I called my mom. I explained to her about the green card and told her that if I didn’t have one, I would not be able to get a job or go to college or be someone in life. But she refused to accept the possibility of me being adopted, and she just kept saying she would lose all her rights toward me. My mother is always saying that because we are a family we have to be together, so she preferred that I not get the green card.

I got so mad that my mom would rather me not have a green card than me getting it and going to college or being able to have a job. I felt that she was taking away my chances for my future to have a good career – and not be a waitress my whole life, like her.

After trying to convince my mother for weeks, I decided to forget the possibility of being adopted, since she refused to sign the papers allowing that. I told my caseworker I didn’t want to go back to my mom’s house. I loved her, but I didn’t think her home was the best place for me to be. My mom disagreed, but I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t like the idea that she would be upset with me, but I knew this was best for my future.

Starting the Process

I went back to the lawyer and told her I was ready to start the process of getting my green card. She smiled and told me I was going to need an original birth certificate and my passport, and that I was going to have a new lawyer working on my case.

A social worker took me to the Honduran Consulate to get my passport. Then I called my father in Honduras so he could send me my birth certificate.

He was really excited to know that I was going to get my green card. I explained to him that having my green card would also make it possible for me to go back to Honduras at some point to visit him. We hadn’t seen each other since I was 8 years old and left for the United States, because if you’re in the U.S. illegally and then leave the country, it’s very hard (and dangerous) to get back in.

After I had done those two things, I went back to see my lawyer. She told me that once I had my passport and birth certificate I needed to wait for the foster care agency to pay the fees to start the paperwork, and after that I needed to get fingerprinted and have a physical checkup with a private doctor.

She also told us about the requirements to apply for the green card: I couldn’t be married, I couldn’t be living with my mother, and I couldn’t get into any trouble with the police. I didn’t have an urge to get married and I didn’t have any problems with the law, so I saw this as no problem.

Inching Forward

It took a few months for the agency to pay the fee. Making the appointment with the doctor also took a while. After I went to the doctor and they got the results, they sent the papers to the immigration officials and waited for an answer. It took two months.

I finally received my working permit in the mail and got so excited to know that I could finally work. I wanted to start working at that moment.

But I wasn’t done yet. I had to go to an interview with an immigration officer. She asked me many questions. Some of them didn’t make sense, like if I was part of the mafia, or if I helped people come to the U.S. illegally. I found the questions funny, but I understood that was part of their job.

She also told me that the people who took my fingerprints had lost them, and that I needed to take them over. But in six weeks, she said, I would have a response from them and know if I was approved for a green card.

Happy Day

I was getting tired of waiting. I was anxious to get my green card and be done with this. I went to get my fingerprints again. Five weeks later I received a letter in the mail saying that I was approved and that I would be getting my green card in three weeks. I was so happy to know I was finally done and that I wouldn’t have to go see lawyers anymore. Exactly three weeks later, I received my green card in the mail, and the next day I went to apply for my Social Security card.

I received my Social Security card one and a half weeks later. I am finally legal in the United States. Now I can get a job and go to college. And when I have saved enough money, I hope to go back to Honduras and visit my father.

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