Arnold & Porter’s Rwanda N. Campbell has been a pro bono attorney with Ayuda for three years, representing clients seeking U Visas, which helps undocumented victims of crime gain legal status in the United States through their cooperation with law enforcement. Her first client is Estella from Ecuador, whose boyfriend nearly killed her. Campbell helped Estella escape the violence and rebuild her life: “Ayuda has allowed attorneys to connect with these strong and brave women who persevere through hardship for a better life.”
In 2012, I attended a pro bono immigration training session at Arnold & Porter led by Ayuda. The training focused on the U Visa process. Within a few months, I met with my first U visa client, Estella.
Estella was shy, with a quiet demeanor. She smiled often, but her eyes were filled with sadness. Over the course of several meetings, we often cried together as she told in detail the journey of her life, which led her to bravely travel to the United States from her native Ecuador in order to seek a better life for her three young children she had to leave behind with family.
While working, Estella met a man who would later become her abuser. Initially the relationship was wonderful as he supported and provided for all of her needs. Things quickly deteriorated when the physical violence towards her became a daily occurrence. Estella hoped things would change after having their first child, but the violence continued throughout her second pregnancy and well afterwards. An escalation of violence one night led to Estella’s two-night stay in the hospital after her boyfriend attempted to kill her. This final incident provided Estella with a newfound determination to escape from this horrific situation.
With the help of Ayuda, Estella successfully filed charges against her abuser, and testified against him at trial. Her cooperation with law enforcement allowed me to file a U Visa application for Estella and her children. We are still waiting on the approval of her U Visa, but have since received Estella’s work permit, which has opened up a whole new world for Estella and her family. Thanks to Ayuda, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for Estella.
The partnership that Arnold & Porter has with Ayuda has allowed many attorneys to help and connect with these strong and brave women who persevere through hardship for a better life. The experience is both beneficial and enriching to all parties involved. I am thankful for these life changing work opportunities provided by organizations like Ayuda.