Maria* was in a constant state of panic, always crying and fearful. Every day, she woke up and thought about her children who were far away, perhaps angry with her, perhaps sad— every day Maria’s children seized her thoughts and every day they were not together would be another day Maria wouldn’t smile.
In 2003, Maria traveled to the United States from the suburbs of Colombia in an effort to leave a volatile, abusive relationship and support the three children she was leaving behind with her mother.
But life in the United States was not as she expected. Now married to an American citizen who abused her, Maria believed she was trapped in an unescapable cycle of violence.
In 2013, everything changed. She started working with legal staff at HIAS Pennsylvania where she learned her rights and received access to social service support. Maria learned to hope.
Maria was able to break the cycle of violence and protect herself against her abuser. HIAS Pennsylvania staff helped her get a U-Visa (a visa for immigrants who are victims of crimes). With it, she gained legal status to live and work in the U.S. and petition for her children to join her in the United States.
The day Maria was reunited with her children, the joy in the room was palpable. Her children climbed all over their mother, and told her that they knew; they knew she was always thinking about them, always doing the best she could for them.
*Maria's name has been changed.