Caraly was born in Honduras and her father abandoned her family when Caraly was only three years old. After her family struggled on the brink of homelessness, her mother made the heartrending decision to look for work in the United States. Caraly was left in the care of her grandmother in the city of San Pedro Sula.
San Pedro Sula is known as the murder capital of the world. Rival gangs (considered criminal organizations by the United States) extort money from residents and businesses. When Caraly was twelve, her grandmother started receiving demands for protection money from a known criminal gang. After living in fear for almost a year, Caraly’s grandmother successfully made arrangements to reconnect Caraly with her mother in Connecticut – only to be met with deportation proceedings from the U.S. Immigration agency. Fortunately, the Center for Children’s Advocacy represented Caraly in a successful petition to the Court. Caraly is now doing extremely well in school and plans to graduate from high school in June 2017.
As Caraly’s case highlights, the needs of immigrant children can be highly complex and benefit from a holistic approach. Today more child immigrants like Caraly will receive the help they need thanks to a $20,000 grant to the Center for Children’s Advocacy Project LLEGAR from the Latino Endowment Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The Center will use this support to provide legal representation for undocumented minors who may qualify for special immigrant juvenile status. This alternative form of immigration relief is available to abused, neglected or abandoned children like Caraly.
“There is nothing more important than protecting children who have no one else to turn to,” said Attorney Edwin Colon, director of Project LLEGAR. “Project LLEGAR serves low-income Latino children and youth in Greater Hartford who face barriers to safety and educational achievement. This grant from the Latino Endowment Fund allows the Center for Children’s Advocacy to help undocumented Latino children access safety and educational services they need to achieve their full potential. Project LLEGAR’s legal services, training and advocacy improve the ways the education system and the Department of Children and Families meet the needs of Latino children and youth.”
While this grant focuses on children, Project LLEGAR will work with families, community providers, legal professionals and schools to create a holistic model of service that addresses the legal rights of Latino children and can be implemented by school systems throughout Connecticut. Project LLEGAR staff will train lawyers to provide pro-bono representation and build their capacity to obtain the evidence needed when applying for this crucial immigration status.
“The members of the Latino Endowment Fund always seek to support organizations and initiatives that serve some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Nelly Rojas Schwan, chair of the Latino Endowment Fund steering committee. “We are proud to support the Center for Children’s Advocacy’s effort to support immigrant children who have suffered a great deal and have come to our country to have a new start in life and need a wide variety of supports necessary to live happy, healthy, stable and productive lives.”
The Latino Endowment Fund was founded in 2003 by Latino leaders in Greater Hartford to increase philanthropy in their community and to strengthen nonprofits working to improve the quality of life for Latino residents. Members examine issues affecting the Latino community and recommend grants from the fund to address those issues. For more information, contact Wanda Y. Correa at 860-548-1888 or email@example.com or go to www.hfpg.org/latino.
By Chris Senecal (CSenecal@hfpg.org)