Seven-year-old Fega arrived at a New York airport in May 2000. A terrible rash covered her body, along with other signs of neglect. No one came to pick her up. Her mother, undocumented and scared, sent a note to Immigration officials asking them to send Fega back to Nigeria. But her father in Nigeria said he did not want her back.
AI Justice met Fega when she appeared alone in Miami Immigration Court. Immigration had placed her in a local children’s shelter. AI Justice fought for her legal relief. Following a front page New York Times story about her plight, she finally was released to a cousin in Connecticut after 15 months in detention.
AI Justice and her AI Justice attorney later attended a Senate hearing to call attention to the plight of children in immigration custody.
Juan and Alex Gomez, Colombia:
Roused from sleep by Immigration agents in July 2007, Juan and Alex Gomez became the faces of the DREAM Act when friends launched a Facebook campaign and AI Justice helped secure private bills by U.S. Sen. Dodd and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart that stayed the brothers’ deportations. When their family fled Colombia in 1990, Juan and Alex were respectively ages 2 and 3. Growing up, they assimilated to U.S. culture and lost all memory of Colombia. After their release from detention, both continued their studies and worked to support themselves.
Juan was profiled in a Washington Post Sunday Magazine story in 2009. He obtained a private scholarship, graduated from Georgetown University in May 2011 and now works at JP Morgan & Chase in New York City. Alex works full time and no longer studies at Miami Dade College because he cannot afford the tuition. Both could have attained legal status through the DREAM Act had it been enacted last year. “AI Justice has been there with us every step of the way and given us hope that perhaps we will be allowed to live here legally and be able to give back to the country some of what it has given to us,” Juan said.
Momoko Sudo, Japan
“In 1992, I came legally to the United States and later married a U.S. citizen who abused me. I ended up in a homeless shelter to escape. At AI Justice, they were very understanding about domestic violence cases and didn’t treat me like a client. They treated me like a special person.
I wish I had a picture of when my life was the worst because you can see how much change AI Justice has given me. I am a completely different person. Without AI Justice, I think I’d be dead. My dream really came true with AI Justice.”
AI Justice helped Momoko, a victim of domestic violence, obtain legal residency in May 2003. She became a successful artist and AI Justice Board Member.
Javier Echevarria, Cuba
“I taught film at the University of Havana and won several international awards for my films. I suffered terribly in Cuba because my documentaries addressed human rights issues. One of my works was chosen to be shown at the Miami and Havana film festivals. When in Miami for the festival, I learned this film had been banned in Cuba and my home and office had been ransacked. So I asked AI Justice to help me get political asylum.
“I am grateful to AI Justice for the humanitarian way in which they handled my case. Professionally I can now express myself in a democratic country with freedom of the press. In 203 my film Cuba 100 years was awarded the best documentary special, and I received the Bronze World Medal at the New York film festival. It is extremely important that AI Justice exists to help potential victims of human rights abuses like myself.”
Javier was granted asylum in 2004.
Timur Mahammadov, Azerbaijan
“In 2004, when NATO invited a group of Armenian delegates to participate in a peacekeeping exercise in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan was opposed and a riot started. When I refused to participate in the demonstrations, people suspected that I was Armenian. An angry mob killed my best friend, who was also half Armenian, and almost killed me. I was saved by a stranger who carried me to a hospital. Then I managed to escape and come to the U.S. I knew that if I returned to Azerbaijan, I would be killed.
“I came to AI Justice asking for help. They represented me and I won asylum in 2007. I am the only survivor of my family and I am so happy that I can be safe in the United States and build up a new family with my wife and my daughter.”