We met Sofia when she was sixteen years old, just months after she intentionally turned herself into U.S. customs to escape sexual abuse and human trafficking.Neglected as a Child
Her life began in Nicaragua, neglected by her mother and never knowing the biological father who had abandoned Sofia’s mother before she was born. When Sofia was only six years old, her mother began to date another man and would leave little Sophia alone for weeks at a time with no food, forcing her to beg from neighbors. Then the new boyfriend moved in with the family and the situation got worse. The boyfriend was physically and verbally abusive to Sofia, and her mother refused to acknowledge the problem and protect her daughter. Sofia was so afraid of this man and so worn down from the abuse that she could not focus on anything else. Her grades in school suffered. The abuse only got worse.
The cruelty continued for so many years that Sofia finally decided to leave Nicaragua and come to the United States for safety. Only sixteen years old, she became one of many similarly-desperate children who would enter the United States “unaccompanied” as a part of the well-documented “surge” in unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence of Central America.
The “Coyotes” Turned on Sophia
The trip from Nicaragua to the United States is dangerous. Instead of seeing her through the journey, the “coyotes” who agreed to guide her to the U.S intended to sell Sofia into human trafficking. As often happens with these young women, Sofia was sexually assaulted by her guides. Young, vulnerable and alone, she waited for a chance to escape the assaults, then fled to an immigration checkpoint to seek the protection of U.S. customs and border patrol. Sophia was taken into custody and placed under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. They arranged for her to receive counseling and other services to help her overcome the traumatic effects of her abuse.
Finally Safe With Family
Eventually, Sofia was released into the custody of a relative who immediately called Justice for Our Neighbors-NE. First, our Child Welfare attorney helped Sofia secure a guardianship order from the County Probate Court to ensure that her placement with the relative was appropriate. Next she helped Sofia to apply for Special Immigrant Status (SIJS)–relief for children who have been abused, abandoned and/or neglected by their parents. She was granted the SIJS and is now a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Today Sofia is thriving in an environment where she feels safe for the first time. She is excelling in her studies and is making the best of the new opportunities she has been given.