"I have a little girl and I don't want her. I don't want a brat to spoil my life. Godmother, if you want her you need to come get her or I will give her away to someone else."
It was the first time Vera* heard about 3-month-old Nella from her goddaughter and niece. The mother gave birth to Nella in Mexico and crossed the border with her. They were now in Utah.
Vera and her husband, Jesus, already had four children of their own; the youngest was 8 years old. They discussed taking Nella, and before long, Vera and her sister were on their way to pick up the infant.
When they arrived, Nella was handed over with just a t-shirt and a diaper. "I'm positive. Take her. I have to move on with my life," said the mother. And then she was gone. Vera and Jesus never heard from her again. That was fifteen years ago.
Vera and Jesus raised Nella as their own, never telling her the story of her birth mother. Over the years, Jesus tried many ways to get in touch with his niece without any success. Vera kept her same phone number for all that time, but Nella's mother never called.
When Nella started elementary school, a birth certificate was requested. Vera said she had turned it in, and school officials never asked again. When Nella visited the doctor, Vera showed her school ID. In junior high, Nella's paperwork transferred from the elementary school. Even when she started high school and her birth certificate was asked for again, Vera said she would need to request a new one since the original was lost by the elementary school.
No one ever followed up, until Nella was 13 years old and caught by a police officer for being out past curfew. "That was when I really faced it," said Vera. "The officer said she needed an ID, and the school ID wasn't sufficient. I knew we needed to do something."
"But all this time I wasn't waiting, and I had inquired with other attorneys," Vera explained. "They said nothing could be done in the States. I would have to go to Mexico, adopt her there, and then bring her back to the U.S. But I couldn't take her to Mexico. What if I had to leave her there?"
"Finally one of the attorneys recommended Mr. Seth," said Vera. "I went to see him and that was when the light at the end of the tunnel appeared. He was so kind and peaceful. He transmits a lot of peace. Not promises because he can't make promises, but I felt comfort that there is a possibility. It wasn't the doubt I felt with other attorneys."
But to move forward, Nella would have to consent to the proceedings, which meant she would need to be told about her birth mother and the story on how she had come to live with Vera and Jesus.
"It was the most difficult thing," said Vera. "She had a lot of questions and cried a lot, but I said 'I took you in with open arms and no matter what anyone says, you are my child. The Lord brought you to me.'"
The extended family. Nella is second from left. Jesus and Vera are sixth and seventh from left.
Seth began work on the case and first successfully secured permanent legal guardianship for Vera and Jesus. Then Seth, on behalf of Nella, applied for and was granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS is a federal law that assists in obtaining a permanent visa for undocumented children who have been subjected to abuse, neglect and abandonment by a parent, and whose best interest is not to return to their country of origin. Nella now has a green card allowing her to legally live and work in the United States.
"There are legal pathways available to these kids, and many lawyers don't know about them," said Seth Grob. "At Grob & Eirich, we are unique in that we have joint expertise in adoption and immigration. We will always staff these cases with two attorneys, one an expert in adoption law and the other in immigration law. Our immigration expert, Katie Glynn, was also involved in this case and brought a lot of experience and knowledge to this situation."
Now Vera and Jesus want to adopt Nella. An adoption suit has now been filed and is pending in the Colorado District Court. If the adoption is completed before Nella turns 16, she will be able to obtain citizenship two years after the adoption.
"It was important that Nella obtained legal status while she was a minor," said Seth. "Without it, she would forever be subject to deportation to a country she didn't know. She would not be able to get gainful employment, pay in state tuition for college, or utilize any public benefits."
"I am very pleased with the work Mr. Seth has done," said Vera. "I would definitely recommend him. It's not easy, believe me, but if there was a case similar to this, I would say don't give up. Not all the attorneys have all the knowledge, but Mr. Seth does."
* All names in this story have been changed.