“Our GLS motto is Changing lives through justice. I would like to think that these are more than words.
I was living in Guatemala in 1987. I remember reading a book from a priest living in a favela in Brazil. It had a confession from a woman, who told him: I am woman. I am black. I am poor. I am a whore. The poorest of the poor.
I was 21. I wanted to change the whole world. I failed.
Almost 30 years later in 2014, a young lady walked through our office doors. I am going to call our client Maria. Maria, like the Virgin Mary. Like the Virgin Mary when she did flight into Egypt with his baby Jesus, Maria was also an immigrant in a foreign country. But unlike the Virgin, Maria did not have any angels to give her warnings.
I would like you to walk in Maria’s sandals.
When she was 7, Maria had to pick a bundle of wood early every day in the morning. If she didn’t she was not allowed to attend school.
When she was 14 Maria was sold to a man to be his “wife.”
When she was 16, Maria got pregnant and had a daughter.
When she was 17, after three years of suffering severe domestic violence, Maria decided to flee her abusive partner, leaving her one-year-old daughter behind.
She decided to come to the U.S., with no money to cross the border. She tried to mingle among a group that was crossing, but the smugglers caught her, and since Maria did not have money… they forced her into prostitution to pay for her debt.
Maria was woman. Maria was brown. Maria was poor, and then… The poorest of the poor.
Thanks to GLS’s Human Trafficking Program, in 2017 Maria was able to get a T Non-Immigrant Visa, which allowed her to legally stay in the U.S.
Two years later, Maria was able to reunify with her daughter after 13 years of being separated.
Today, I am convinced that we, as Gulfcoast, are changing lives through justice. Maybe we cannot save the whole world. But I am sure we can change the world one life at a time.”
Luis Echeverri is a paralegal for the immigration unit and has been with GLS for over twelve years.