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An Update on Maribel’s Journey

(This update is provided by Beth Irtz)

Over a year ago now Cathy Benn and I introduced Maribel to our congregation. Maribel immigrated from Mexico and her journey took her to the GEO Aurora Detention Center. We learned about Maribel’s story and need for a sponsor when Freedom for Immigrants was in touch with us.

My husband, Chris, and I had agreed to sponsor Maribel and we visited her in detention and took others to translate. Laura Eley was very helpful during this very difficult and confusing time. Eventually on May 31, 2019 Maribel was released from detention and came to live with us. Many of you met her or saw her with us at First Plymouth. We learned Maribel had left four children and her mother in Monticellos, Mexico, a pueblo about two hours northeast of Acapulco. Maribel had lived in the pueblo for her entire life, as her mother has.

The day following Maribel’s release she reached her children by video on her cell phone. You could hear their cries and screams through our entire home, and what seemed like our entire neighborhood! She had not seen her children or spoken with them since she left them some nine months before. Maribel started the daily ritual of speaking with them many times every day.

We also learned Maribel’s five brothers were also here in the US, two in Glenwood Springs. A couple weeks later we went to Glenwood Springs to meet them. Maribel reconnected with them and their families. During one of our trips to the Glenwood Springs area, we attended a christening celebration where most of the people were undocumented. Since then Maribel has made the trip to Glenwood Springs with us or via the Greyhound several times. She is now living in Glenwood Springs with, Luis, a familiar face from her pueblo, who she was friends with since childhood.

In July and August 2019 Maribel established herself with a physician and other healthcare providers here locally. Amazingly they all accepted her as a patient with very little or zero co-pays. Obviously, we were delighted about this since she was not eligible to apply for Medicaid or a work permit. Maribel applied for a Mexican passport and ID card at the Mexican consulate and was approved. Another gift, Leonora, an angel in our church from Columbia, went and helped Maribel through the process, most of a day. She began taking English lessons with Tricia Springer and her English improved. Additionally, Maribel was digitally fingerprinted by Homeland Security and eventually released from ICE check-ins. In August 2019 Maribel went to court with her new attorney and met with the judge to schedule her final asylum hearing. The date was set for October 26, 2021. Over 2 years later.

In September, Maribel and her attorney applied for a work permit. In January 2020 Homeland Security notified Maribel her work permit was denied. She appealed and was denied again. Maribel’s attorney has told her she has no chance of getting a work permit before her asylum hearing in 2021. Therefore, she has no legal work options for over 2 years.

Since October 2020 Maribel traveled back-and-forth from our home to Glenwood Springs to see her family, friends, and Luis. Most of these months seemed hopeful for Maribel, she continued to look forward to working to support her children still in Mexico. She seemed indecisive about staying in Denver or staying in Glenwood Springs. She continues today to have moments of indecisiveness. She is sad it is taking so long, and she can’t work or see her children. She lives to send money to Mexico every week. So many of you have contributed to her needs and those of her children. Maribel is so grateful. Even today the Church has provided some support for her.

COVID-19 changed Maribel and Luis life like an earthquake. In a moment’s time they had nothing: no place to live and no way to buy food. Our church heard their call and responded. She lives in the way many poor and low-income people of color in our country. She and Luis have a small apartment now, with a few possessions and food. She is here legally, and we can hope and pray she will be granted asylum in October 2021.

In writing this I hope you’ll see the hopefulness in coming to America and the barriers and problems people of color and different ethnicity confront and how we as a church have helped and can do more. I often wonder what her future holds. I have learned her vision and goals are not ours, but hers. My lack of understanding for Maribel’s way of life and culture was a barrier itself in helping and supporting her.

My initial introduction on the other side of the glass at the detention center was a moment I’ll never forget. I was locked behind two air locks and couldn’t get out. I had briefly lost my freedom and had never before understood this feeling. My freedom in that moment was more important than any right I had. Maribel lived this way for over nine months in our country and now she is free.

Thank you, each of you, for all you have done in greeting Maribel, driving her to appointments, supporting her financially and emotionally. Your generosity of heart will never be forgotten.