Client Stories: Daris & Family

Daris and her two daughters came to the US from Guatemala, fleeing domestic violence. Daris’s abuser was her boyfriend and the father of her two daughters. He was also part of a local gang that was effectively the law in her home. Many of our clients come to the US with a similar story. There are parts of Guatemala where the local police are either unable or uninterested in protecting women and children. Daris knew that they had to leave; because of her older daughter’s health, she knew they had to come to the United States. Madeleine, Daris’ oldest child, was born with a genetic disorder that meant her legs and kidneys did not form or function well. The care they were able to get in Guatemala was able to manage her chronic pain, but a procedure that could give her a chance at walking for the first time was only available in the United States.

After making the journey and working years to find a surgeon who could help them, Madeleine is now receiving the treatment she needs. She is receiving medication to allow her kidneys to function and has had multiple surgeries to help her legs. The family is established in the United States, and Daris has a young son who is a US citizen.

And yet, they are undocumented immigrants. Without police reports or hospital records documenting the abuse she had received at her partner’s hands, Daris does not have much hope of winning asylum for her family. In fact, her claim has been denied beyond any possibility for appeal, and they have all received final orders of deportation. Returning to Guatemala now would mean that Madeleine would be leaving mid-way through her treatment plan and returning to the same dangers they fled.

We have had the privilege of walking with this family after their immigration court was lost, and they were in desperate need of some help. We are not the only ones. Strangers No Longer, a program organized out of a number of Detroit area Catholic parishes, has come together to Stand with Daris and her family and well. Together with a group from Strangers No Longer, staff from Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Rep. Rashida Tlaib offices, and a handful of other organizations, SWIRC attorney Kevin Piecuch accompanied the family at their ICE check-in last week. The family had been told to bring plane tickets for their imminent departure by the end of the month. At the last minute, we were informed through Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s office that the family did not need to bring plane tickets.

See coverage by the Detroit Free Press

At the check-in, Kevin spoke to ICE and delivered a petition for a stay of deportation on humanitarian grounds. They did not want to talk to the family with so much press present. ICE committed to reviewing the request and getting us an answer by Friday.

On Friday, ICE contacted us as promised to let us know they approved the request for a one-year stay of deportation on humanitarian grounds. The family was overjoyed at the prospect of completing Madeleine’s treatment in the United States.

This is news to celebrate! The family does not want to return home, but now that their deportation is not imminent, they can plan for another year and for Madeline’s health to continue to progress. We will continue to walk with this family and advocate for compassion on their behalf.


The Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center provides free and low-cost legal services to those who need them most in the Detroit area, with a focus on recent immigrants and refugees.

We were founded in 2014 by Kevin Piecuch, our Executive Director and principal attorney, to help meet the great need for quality legal services in underserved communities. We believe that everyone deserves justice regardless of your country of origin, the color of your skin, or your ability to afford an attorney.

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