WEST PALM BEACH, Fla - “Can you help me to come to the United States?” That question started a journey a local Palm Beach County woman decided to take when she agreed to sponsor a Guatemalan woman, in her quest for asylum.
“I know the circumstance of her life, so I chose to help her; otherwise she would be targeted in Guatemala,” the sponsor told Contact 5 investigator Merris Badcock.
We are not identifying the sponsor, who is a United States citizen, because it could jeopardize her safety and the safety of the Guatemalan asylum-seeker. Asylum cases are confidential until a decision is made.
“Basically, I gave all my personal information to [the Guatemalan woman]. She crossed the border, and when [she talked to] immigration [agents], she said I was waiting for her here in Florida.”
This sponsor, like most, paid for transportation to get the Guatemalan woman from the border station to her home in Palm Beach County.
Every Tuesday, she says an I.C.E. agent comes to check on the Guatemalan woman. It’s a process which continues until her case is decided in federal court.
“By the time it gets referred to the court, which can take months, it can then take potential years,” said immigration attorney Richard Hujber, who is currently representing the high-profile immigration case of Palm Beach restaurant manager Javier Gonzalez. “I’ve seen cases take two to three years and I’ve seen some take longer than that.”
The sponsor says the system isn’t perfect, but it is what we have for now.
“One thing I’m sure of is we need to know who is coming to the USA,” she said. “This is the country that always offered that kind of hope for people, so that’s why everybody’s here! But on the other hand, we need to make sure that the people who are coming here have morals, good character, are clean - no criminal records.”
Anyone can sponsor an asylum seeker as long as they are a legal resident or U.S. citizen.