Family trauma made Julio’s* teenage years chaotic, but as a young adult he realized that he could be successful and that U.S. citizenship would be a must. Julio’s mother fled Colombia as an asylee and wound up in Ecuador and then Spain where she married his father. When Julio was four years old, he and his family arrived in the United States, but the stress of the refugee experience took its toll on his father. When Julio was seven years old, he returned to Spain with his mother and baby sister. Then at age 12, he returned to the United States to live with his father who had remarried, become a U.S. citizen, and had a new family. With his father working long hours and Julio having significant conflict with his step-mother, his mother’s relatives tried to help by taking care of him on the weekends. Unfortunately, Julio ended up living on his own when he was 16 years old. He made some bad decisions and hung out with the wrong crowds. One day, he realized he could have a better life. So, he found better friends and started working. Finally, his mother was able to rejoin him via a family petition from her own mother. With no one to help him, he applied for U.S. citizenship on his own. Not only was his case denied, but he was afraid that he would be deported and sent back to Spain where he had no family or resources. “That turned my world upside down, right when I thought I finally had things together.”
At this point, he came to International House. His attorney reviewed his entire immigration history and worked out a strategy for him to be naturalized. Thirteen months after that first consultation, he became a proud U.S. citizen. He is a small business owner, selling merchandise as a vendor around the city, and plans to start a second business soon. “This is my country,” he said. “Before I was a citizen, I was a proud American in my heart. Being a citizen gave me the peace of mind that I could live here the rest of my life.”
*Julio’s name and country of origin have been changed to protect his identity.