“So when they came to deport Maria, they didn’t just deport Maria from Houston. They deported your friend Maria. That hurts, because you really enjoyed having coffee and empanadas with her. You think, ‘What can I do to get her back?’
That mobilizes you, because it’s coming from someplace real. It’s not superficial; it’s not some savior complex where you are coming to save someone on a white horse. It hurts to lose a friend. It hurts to see her children left behind and her family destroyed.”
"My mother said yes because she did not want my sister to be hurt. Otherwise she would not have agreed to the marriage. When my mother told me there was [to be a marriage] ceremony, I was so shocked. I thought it was too early for me, I wanted to do my studies. My mother told me I had to marry for my sister’s sake."
Tragically, Just Neighbors, our JFON site in Northern Virginia, has seen several marriages like Anna's, in which a family of U.S. citizens returns to its home country to arrange a marriage for a physically or mentally disabled son.
Anna and her parents were kept in ignorance of the groom’s condition. His parents forced Anna’s mother to consent to the marriage by threatening to harm Anna’s sister. As is the case in similar forced marriage situations, Anna was brought to the United States and kept in isolation in her in-laws' home.
Anna stayed with her profoundly disturbed husband for eight years, leaving the house only to work and giving her wages to her father-in-law.
Like the other wives Just Neighbors has helped, Anna left her marital home. Thanks to the hard work of Anna's excellent legal team, Anna was able to secure her green card. Recently, after years of effort, she became a U.S. citizen.
"There are no words," Anna said, describing her gratitude. "All of you are going to go to heaven when you die."
"Well, thank you," responded her attorney, smiling, "But I hope it's not any time soon!"
At the Naturalization Ceremony
When Anna—from the story above— took the oath of citzenship, Genesis Lazo of Just Neighbors was with her.She had a few thoughts about the experience to share with us:
"Attending a naturalization ceremony is such a privilege. It is both a leap for joy and a sigh of relief all at once. I can remember studying with my dad for his citizenship test and the joy that it brought my family when the process was over and he could finally become an American citizen.
Due to my personal relationship with the citizenship process, I felt really happy to be able to attend Anna’s ceremony and support her on behalf of Just Neighbors.
The calling of the countries from which the new citizens came from was awesome to see. The 101 people naturalizing came from South Korea, Egypt, Germany, and Sierra Leone to name a few. The calling of countries seemed symbolic of how pride in one’s country of birth shall not be lost by becoming an American...
Overall, it was a lovely experience and I am so happy for Anna and her family!"