SAN JOSE -- The U.S.-Mexico border has been topping headlines this month. Leading up to the expiration of the COVID-era Title 42 policy, there was a rise in the number of migrants at the border wanting to seek asylum. Those numbers have since dropped.
All of this heightened conversations around the immigration system in the U.S with politicians on both sides of the aisle having their own thoughts as to what the solution is – unable to meet in the middle.
Many immigrants have been processed at the border and have made their way to different parts of the U.S. – some here in the Bay Area.
Paola and her family tell KPIX 5 that they were released from a processing center near the border with a court date in California. They landed at the San Jose Mineta International Airport this month late at night uncertain where to go next.
"It was about 5 a.m. And seeing my children in the chairs trying to rest, in my head was the image that in the home we had built (back home), they had their beds, they had their stuff. Seeing them like that, I began to pray," Paola said.
They had a home in Latin America. As her four sons slept, she couldn't help but think what they had left behind. They knew no one in the Bay Area.
"I would tell God, 'God, if you have us here, it's with a purpose. Guide me, guide me. Send me an angel to guide us. I want my kids to have a place, a place where they can rest, at least for a day. And God didn't just send me one, he sent me many."
Paola said those angels were people who worked at the airport. They gave them food and suitcases, and connected them to Amigos de Guadalupe, a nonprofit organization in San Jose helping families who just arrived.
In just the last couple of weeks, Jeremy Barousse with the nonprofit says they've had several families seek out their help.
When they connect with them, he said they give families a hotel room for seven days.
"During those seven days, it really gives a family a chance to get stabilized, to be able to figure out their next move, to find some work, get some resources like food assistance, get medical attention, give families the opportunity to get stabilized, so they can go toward their next step," he said.
Paola and her family let us into what life was looking like for them one morning in that first week. They got up before 9 a.m. Paola and her husband Oscar got breakfast ready for their kids with the food that had been donated to them. They heated up chicken in the microwave and served it on plastic covers.
Joel is the youngest son. He ate his breakfast as he watched a movie. He said his favorite movie is Minions.
Paola's kids gathered around her as she started their morning prayer. She held onto Joel's hand.
They're starting all over here, but she and her husband said they had to leave.
"A lot of threats against our family," Oscar said.
Wilson Purves is a local immigration attorney at KPB Immigration Law Firm. With years of experience, he's had many clients seek asylum for a number of reasons.
"Many applicants decide to come here and seek help because they don't feel safe back home. When we're talking about safety issues, we're referring to organized crime, domestic violence, retaliation because of sexual orientation," Purves said.
It's been a long journey for Paola and her family. She and Oscar want to be able to provide for their family. But Purves said getting a work permit could take some time.
"Keep in mind that we need to file the asylum application first, wait 180 days, and eventually file the work authorization which could also take months for being adjudicated. Therefore, it may take up to a year or so for an applicant to actually have a work permit and a social security number after filing the asylum application," Purves said.
Paola and Oscar also want their kids to have the opportunity to reach their goals.
Dylan is the oldest and plays soccer.
"Train, study," Dylan said after asking what's the first thing he wants to do now that he's in the U.S.
His younger brother Felipe plays volleyball and said he wants to play here and learn English.
Samuel hopes to finish school and also wants to learn English.
Through it all, Paola said some of the most important things for her have been keeping her family together and being in a safe place.
"Health and peace don't have a price," she said.
Immigration reform has been talked about for a long time. But just last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers- the Dignity Act - that would increase border security funding, legalize some immigrants living in the U.S. and expand lawful migration channels.
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