Throughout the years, the UFW Foundation has assisted thousands of community members with immigration legal services, ensuring that they receive the professional help they need to navigate immigration law. One of the UFW Foundation’s most impactful stories is that of Rosa Martinez Espinosa whose five-year journey in the immigration system was extremely challenging.
Rosa Martinez Espinosa started her life in Mexico, working as a waitress in the cafeteria of the Hotel Regis in Mexico City until it collapsed in the big earthquake of 1985, which she fortunately survived due to having the morning off. She then worked at a cafe called El Popular. She tried to study but her days were really long working to make ends meet and she never got to finish school.
On August 1989, unable to make a decent living at the time, Rosa decided to seek a better life and better economic opportunities by moving to the United States. She arrived in Los Angeles, California, where the biggest challenge for her was the language barrier as she had very limited English skills. Another challenge was getting the right documentation to be able to work in restaurants.
After a month in LA with no luck finding a job, Rosa moved to Bakersfield. Shortly after arriving in Bakersfield, Rosa started working in the fields and got pregnant with her daughter, Elizabeth, and later her son, Luis, raising her children with very little resources.
In 2018, Rosa was arrested in Kern County. Not understanding the charges filed against her, Rosa was detained at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility and Detention Center in Bakersfield.
In June of that year, Rosa would be connected to the UFW Foundation’s Directing Attorney, Ambar Tovar. Rosa would be the first client for the UFW Foundation’s Removal Defense Project with Ambar representing Rosa. Fortunately for Rosa, she was released on a $5,000 bond and a new petition was submitted by her son on her behalf and later an Adjustment of Status application. However, during the next five years, the stress and emotional strain from this continued ordeal would wreak havoc on her physical, mental and emotional state.
“These last five years have been very trying for my mom,” said Elizabeth Espinosa. “She went from being a strong and resilient woman working fields to being unable to work because the stress and anxiety was debilitating. The stress and anxiety took a toll on not only her but it has also greatly affected my brother Luis. She lost 70 pounds in the last two years from all of the worrying.”
Rosa said "[it was] exhausting with a lot of shock, a lot of stress, and uncertainty. I was very afraid and anguished because I didn't know what was going to happen."
After more than five years of emotional, physical and mental turmoil, on August 2023, the nightmare finally ended. Rosa Martinez Espinosa went before a San Francisco immigration judge and was awarded Lawful Permanent Resident status.
“Now that she has been granted her permanent residency thanks to all the hard work and determination of Ambar and her team, all that weight has been lifted from her and our shoulders, and we are working through the trauma this whole situation has caused our family,” said Elizabeth.
When asked what she plans to do now, Rosa said she’s working on regaining her health so she can get back to work. As for her daughter Elizabeth, she said “I feel like we have been given a second chance to be a family and I am so grateful for that chance.”
“I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for all the work UFW Foundation did for me,” said Rosa. “I don't have enough words to thank the UFW Foundation for granting me what I have always dreamed of. I finally get to live the dream I came to pursue over 30 years ago.”
Like Rosa, there are millions of other of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who need legal assistance.
“This case, and others, speaks to the reason why these services are critically needed in our communities,” said UFW Foundation Directing Attorney Ambar Tovar. “Without our support, I am afraid she would not have been afforded human dignity, due process, and would have been deported while in detention. I hope this story also inspires us to continue doing the work that we do to service so many people.”
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