The Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services Program helps individuals improve their immigration status and navigate the complicated network of processes and paperwork. In most cases, these individuals have already made many difficult decisions coming to the United States and feel overwhelmed by the immigration process. In addition, moving to a new country leaves many immigrants isolated and vulnerable.

Dilcia Martinez, a native of Honduras, came to Catholic Charities in March 2006, requesting information about the U-Visa process for victims of serious crimes. Martinez and her children were assaulted at gunpoint and terrorized in their Wilmington apartment. Fortunately, the youngest son was able to find neighbors who called the police to intervene. Consuelo Kwée, Director of Immigration Legal Services explained, “Dilcia came seeking assistance with a U-Visa application that is granted to people who have been abuse victims and must help the police find the perpetrator.” Martinez then began gathering information, supporting documents, police records and statements of the crime. After several months of working with Dilcia, the 152-page package
of forms, supporting documents, and fees were mailed to the United States Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services for consideration of her U-Visa application. After several years of waiting, Martinez and her children had their U-Visa approved in August 2018. This meant that after two more years, they could apply to become permanent residents, and ultimately citizens of the United States. In the meantime, they received work permits, allowing Martinez to acquire a better paying job, and her driver’s license. When the day finally came that Martinez learned her citizenship test had been scheduled, she immediately got emotional, “I went to check the mail and saw that my test had been scheduled. I started to cry! I was so happy I cried. I immediately called Consuelo and then my teacher, Barbara, and they both congratulated me.”

On an early Monday morning, Martinez, Kwee, and Barbara Grubb, a volunteer who assisted Martinez through the citizenship process, met in the parking lot at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Office in Durham, NC. Martinez was up before 5 a.m. to make the two-hour drive from Wilmington and arrive early for her 8 a.m. appointment. “Dilcia went through the U-Visa application process, then the legal permanent residency card process, and today has earned her citizenship. Typically, this is a 20-year process, so it is wonderful to see that she made it to the final stage.” shared Kwée on the morning of the appointment that Martinez both passed her test and received her citizenship certificate. Martinez noted that voting was a big reason behind her quest for citizenship, “In getting my citizenship, my goal was to vote. My oldest daughter has started to vote, and I wanted to see myself doing the same.”

Through this long, arduous process, there have been roadblocks, setbacks, and most importantly paperwork. But through the combined efforts of Martinez and Catholic Charities staff and
volunteers, Martinez has achieved her goal. “Every time we come into the office, they are kind and attentive. And they always have the answers to your questions. I would recommend Catholic Charities to anyone looking for help, because their support is unconditional.”