Separated Most of Her Young Life, Little Girl Finally Reunites with her Mom

Posted on May 8, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Meet Two of the Thousands of Immigrants Catholic Charities Serves

Separated for five years by continents, abusive caretakers, finances and immigration laws, Ana, 24, and Alisson, 7, are finally rebuilding their mother-daughter bond. The two appear like magnets to one another, clinging tightly to make up for time lost. With large brown eyes that mirror her mom’s, Alisson focuses on the workbook Ana gave her, smiling broadly when Alisson  compliments her for correctly spelling “CAT.”

Their story, like so many shared during this time of threatened mass deportations, is one of loss, risk and renewal.  But unlike most, it is also one of familial abuse and institutional rescue, of grandparents that took advantage of an innocent child and of an organization, Catholic Charities NY that came to the little girl’s rescue.

Similar to many born in their impoverished, gang-ridden birthplace of El Salvador, Ana fled a childhood that began hawking fruit on the street at age 7 and never got much better, to build a life for herself and her daughter in the United States. The plan was to temporarily leave Alisson with her grandparents until Ana could save enough money to reunite with her in New York.

Here Ana found work cleaning offices and received legal immigration status.  Meanwhile, she sent much of what she earned back to her parents in El Salvador to cover Alison’s expenses. 

Leaving Alisson with her grandparents was even harder for Ana than it is for most parents.  Alisson says her memories of abuse at the hands of her parents remain fresh.  But like many abuse victims, she blamed herself; that she was not good enough; did not work hard enough; was not pretty enough. 

She thought her daughter would be safe. And for a while she was.

But last year a friend alerted Ana that little Alisson looked thin, threadbare and was being kept out of school.  The friend agreed to take over Alisson’s care until Ana could arrange for her daughter’s legal passage to the United States.

Losing power over their daughter and granddaughter apparently enraged the grandparents, Ana says.  They, along with aunts and uncles, stalked the friend.  Ana’s sister held a machete to her friend’s neck.  And she threatened to kill her with it. 

Fortunately, Ana found her way to Catholic Charities NY’s Immigration and Refugee team.

Catholic Charities contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Representatives successfully urging the agency to flag Alisson’s case for expedited processing. 

On September 13, 2017 Ana received the news she had been praying for: U.S. Homeland Security granted Alisson permission to fly to the U.S. as a refugee.  The little girl arrived safely one week later, finally reunited with her mother. 

Mother and daughter smile each time they catch each other’s glance.  But Ana says she cannot get past the guilt she feels for leaving her daughter with her parents.

Catholic Charities staff is helping mother and daughter establish their new life together here in New York.  They provide them with counseling, support and repaid $770 refugee travel loan required to bring Alison to safety.

“God bless Catholic Charities,” Ana says as she gives Alison a hug.  “I don’t know what would have happened to us without them.”

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