From Asylum Seeker to Citizen
Justice For Our Neighbors - Iowa
By Brynne Howard, Staff Attorney
On Friday, April 18, 2014, one of JFON’s own stood before a federal judge and took the oath of U.S. citizenship. Grisell Herrera, born in Havana, Cuba, has been the office manager with JFON-Iowa since December 2009. In that role, Grisell spends much of her time interacting with clients. JFON Attorney Brynne Howard describes Grisell as “exceptionally conscientious and detailed, welcoming, gracious and the kind of person who, on a daily basis, goes out of her way to assist people.” In celebration of Grisell’s accomplishment, we’re sharing a little about her immigration story.
Q: Why did you decide to come to the United States?
A: I came to the U.S. in September 2008. Having had the opportunity to live outside my home country, I could see that Cuba’s current economic system has impoverished our country. Our “free” education and health system has a high cost to the people of Cuba because Cuban people lack basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I felt very disappointed because my points of view and principles were far from what I was required to think, say and do. Also, I had most of my family living abroad, including my partner who had come to the U.S. years before. That’s why I made the decision to cross the Canadian/U.S. border as a refugee and eventually obtained my legal permanent residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Q: What do you enjoy about your work with JFON?
A: I love to learn, and working with immigration law in this position has allowed me to learn many things. I have learned about the law, but I have also learned about human suffering. The most important thing has been the opportunity to meet those people who come to JFON looking for help because they face a daily danger of being deported and seeing their families split apart. It's heartbreaking to see.
Q: Why was it important to you to become a U.S. citizen?
A: I believe it should be the main goal of all people who come to work and live in the U.S. to become fully integrated participants in this society. It is a way for me to show respect for a country which has welcomed me as one of its own. I feel very proud to become a U.S. citizen and to have the right to vote in democratic elections.
JFON thanks Grisell for her work on behalf of immigrants, and we welcome her with arms wide open as a new U.S. citizen!