Two arrests in his history complicated the process, but in the end he could prove that he deserved to be a resident

Leonel Duarte Navas, a Salvadoran who was for years protected by the Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and subsequently with a U visa after being a victim of a robbery, received permanent residence in the United States.

This is a case that apparently seems easy, but it was not, because Leonel had in his background, two arrests that made his residency process take longer. However, the wait was worth it since the morning of January 13 was surprised by his lawyer Mitzi Cárdenas with his residence card.

"I'm very happy. Now I can own my own business, ”says Leonel, 54.

Leonel's immigrant history began in the late 1980s when he emigrated to the country. Here in Los Angeles he married and had four children who are now 24, 22, 16 and 14 years old.

Leonel Nava Duarte, a 54-year-old Salvadoran, achieves his residence. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion).

“I don't remember if it was the year 2000 or 2001 when I received the TPS,” says Leonel. What he is sure of is that he was protected 18 years by this program.

An unexpected event that could cost him his life would help him later change his status.

It was a night in 2003, when he returned from work and while getting out of his car in East Los Angeles, a man attacked him and stole his vehicle.

“He didn't hurt me, I only cut my finger in the struggle when I defended myself in a moment of despair to save me. Days later, the police recovered the vehicle. Only my work tools were stolen, ”he says.

Leonel was dedicated to work in various maintenance areas. He is currently in charge of maintaining a Christian Church in Los Angeles.

Leonel Nava Duarte becomes a US resident after receiving the U visa (Araceli Martínez / La Opinion)

It was not until nine years after the assault when he learned that through the armed robbery he suffered, he could qualify to receive a U visa, which could open a path for his residence.

“In Lack, they helped me apply for the U visa in 2012. As a year and a half ago, in 2014, they gave it to me for four years, with an extension of one year,” he says.

Two years before the expiration of said visa, he decided to go see the immigration lawyer, Eric Price because the defender who had helped him in Carece was no longer working for that non-profit organization.

Price's office helped him with the paperwork for his residence.

But it wasn't as easy as you would expect for someone who already has a U visa, a relief that the government gives to those who are victims of a serious crime and collaborate with the police.

It allows the beneficiary to obtain a work permit and be protected from deportation.

Attorney Mitzi Cardenas tells Leonel Vega of the approval of her residence. (Araceli Martínez / The Opinion)

A difficult case

Attorney Mitzi Cárdenas of the legal firm of Eric Price says that the residency process was not easy because the Salvadoran had two arrests in his past dating from the years 1988 and 2000.

"The U visa forgives you all, but the residence is another thingto. There they investigate you more, ”he says.

"We knew that this background was going to be a problem, but what helped Leonel was that he received no convictions for any of those arrests," he said.

In addition, he observes, they struggled to show migration the positive side of Leonel's story.

“He has been in the country for more than 30 years, he has four children born here, he has always paid taxes. At the end, his moral conduct and the one who had never condemned him, helped us to prove that he deserved residence”, Says lawyer Cárdenas.

Leonel says that his problems with the law occurred because he tried to defend himself in a previous aggression that he suffered a few years after arriving in the country.

“When I came to see the lawyers, I had to go back to the Court and get the documents proving that the accusations against me were dismissed,” he observes.

Attorney Cardenas mentions that it was a difficult case, but it was worth a try.

"It is important that in this type of situation when there is a history, the immigrant seeks an experienced lawyer", advise.

And remember those who have the U visa, that before three years of expiration they must apply for residence or request an extension. "Otherwise, if they let the U visa expire, they will have to start the process again from requesting police certification of their cases," he says.

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Faith and hope

Leonel says he always had faith and confidence in achieving his residence. "Grabbed by the hand of God and cooperating with the lawyers with all the documentation they asked for, always hope for the best," he adds.

Now his greatest desire is to open his own shop for buying and selling cranes and other vehicles.

He would also like to travel to El Salvador to meet his family he has not seen for 33 years.


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