Read this story in French.
As Mother’s Day 2019 approaches, CLINIC has collected the stories of four mothers who have gone through or are currently going through the asylum process. It is our hope that these stories illustrate the experience of motherhood under extreme circumstances, and how they are connected by perseverance, love, and hope.
Sita* is originally from Ivory Coast. She has three children and five siblings, which she describes as a happy family. In her home country, she was part of a workers’ union. When asked why she came to the United States, she explains that her government saw those who denounced the suffering of workers as opponents or enemies.
Ivory Coast underwent civil war from 2002 to 2004. When the war ended, the country split in two. The north was held by rebels and the south by the government. “I was living in the south and was threatened by supporters of the president in power. Murders and disappearances were frequent and unpunished. I was afraid and had to flee,” Sita said.
French is the official language of the Ivory Coast, so one of Sita’s many concerns in leaving was encountering a language barrier while navigating an unknown country. “I didn’t speak the language and didn’t have relatives.” Regardless, Sita made the decision to travel to the United States and seek asylum upon arriving.
After fleeing her country and arriving to the US on a visa, Sita had to make the difficult decision to overstay her visa in order to claim asylum due to the political persecution she experienced. Sita shared: “I missed my children, and it was painful because they needed me the most.” The long and trying processing time for her asylum was unexpected, eventually taking years.
The financial hardship that came with the long wait was equally dreadful. “Coming here, my children had to stop school back home because of my lack of income,” Sita recalled. At one court appearance, she asked the judge to grant her a work authorization, to which he answered, “you are here for protection and not for working.” Sita, like many other asylum seekers, found it extremely difficult to support herself and those that depended on her without authorization to work. While it was true that Sita came to the U.S. to seek protection, her inability to work has human consequences as it affected her ability to sustain herself and support her family.
“When I became stable, I was able to help them go back to school and brought my youngest son to live with me,” Sita said.
Becoming a U.S. citizen meant a lot to Sita. She is now able to vote and support a political party of her choice without fear of harm. Sita’s story demonstrates that core values such as freedom and justice can shine through in the face of hardship.
“The free speech in this country is what I like the most. My future plan is to find a way to help the desperate immigrants who first arrive in this country,” Sita shared. CLINIC is proud of Sita’s determination and applaud her commitment to fellow immigrants and refugees. This Mother’s Day, we celebrate moms around the world who stand in solidarity with those most vulnerable.
*Name has been changed
Want to demonstrate your support of mothers like Sita? Sign our petition calling on the administration to end their relentless attacks on asylum seekers.