Client Bravely Gives Testimony before New York City Council

Kathryn Chmielewski, January 22, 2019


On December 19th, 2018 our young client Axel gave testimony to the New York City Council regarding the importance of providing lawyers to immigrant children in deportation proceedings. Axel spoke bravely about his own experience and the impact that legal representation has had on his own life. He was accompanied by Safe Passage Project supervising social worker Samantha Norris, case manager Victoria Hernandez, social worker Vanessa Castro-Mora, Executive Director Rich Leimsider, and social work intern Ashley Soto. We met Axel five years ago when he was just 14 years old. Since then, we have helped Axel obtain his green card. Now, he wants to become a social worker so that he can help others just as he was helped when he arrived in the United States.

We are incredibly proud of Axel and his courage in telling his story to effect change. To read Axel’s full testimony in English and in Spanish, click here or read below.

City Council Testimony of Axel Harry Herrera
December 19 2018

Good afternoon. Thank you to everyone for being here and listening to me this afternoon.

My name is Axel Rolando Harry Herrera.

I am 19 years old.

I am from Honduras, from La Lima Cortes.

I currently live here in New York, in the Bronx.

In June, I graduated from Harlem Renaissance High School.

Now I study in Guttman Community College. I study human services to be able to continue my goal of becoming a social worker.

I came to the United States in 2013. I decided to emigrate from my country, Honduras, because there is a lot of delinquency there and less chance of getting ahead.

Also, I had my mother here in the US. I wanted to reunite with her because it had been 7 years since I last saw her.

When I came, I was 14 years old. It wasn’t easy to separate from my grandparents and make the decision to leave, because I knew that the trip was dangerous. But my biggest motivation was to get ahead and see my mom.

My first dream was to be an actor and have the opportunity to be in the theater and to be in a movie where I could act, sing, and dance at the same time.

Then with time, I discovered other motivations to be a social worker because I like to communicate with and help people. Just like they helped me!

In August of 2014, my mom and I contacted Safe Passage Project. We went to the office and they interviewed me.

Afterwards, they called me to tell me that they found a lawyer who was interested in my case.

I felt happy. But I also felt nervous, because I knew that I was going to have to tell my story. There were moments that were really hard to express myself because a lot of hurtful things had happened in my childhood. But with time, I established a trustful relationship with my lawyer and she made me feel comfortable.

I felt more secure in court. With my lawyer, I learned to feel more confident in myself, to tell my experience and respond to the questions they asked me.

More than giving me a lawyer, Safe Passage gave me other opportunities to know more youth like me who immigrated to the US and know their stories.

Four years after my first interview with Safe Passage, I received a call from them telling me that immigration had accepted my application for permanent residency. I felt very happy because there I realized that all of my efforts to come here were worth it.

Being an immigrant without documents is not easy. One doesn’t feel part of the United States. Sometimes I walked in fear that I could be returned to my country.

But more than anything, I thought about my grandma and the possibility of never being able to go back and see her.

When I received that call, I remember that I cried from the happiness.

Now with my residency, I have more motivation to get ahead and excel. What I thought was an illusion is now a reality.

All of this is thanks to Safe Passage, for having helped me all of this time in my immigration process and helping me achieve my dreams.

Thank you for listening to me today.

Buenas tardes. Gracias a todos y a todas por estar aquí escucharme esta tarde.

Mi nombre es Axel Rolando Harry Herrera.

Tengo 19 años.

Vengo de Honduras, de La Lima Cortes.

Actualmente vivo aquí en Nueva York, en el Bronx.

En junio, me gradué de Harlem Renaissance High School.

Ahora estudio en Guttman Community College. Estudio los servicios humanos para poder seguir con mi meta de ser trabajador social.

Me vine a los EEUU en 2013. Decidí de inmigrar de mi país porque allá hay mucha delincuencia y hay menos probabilidades de salir adelante.

También, tenía a mi mama aquí en los EEUU. Quería reunirme con ella porque ya tenía 7 años de no verla.

Cuando yo vine, yo tenía 14 años. No fue fácil separarme de mis abuelos y tomar la decision de irme, porque sabía que el viaje era muy arriesgado. Pero mi mayor motivación era salir adelante y ver a mi mama.

Mi primer sueño era ser actor y tener la oportunidad de estar en el teatro y estar en una película donde podría actuar, cantar, y bailar a la misma vez.

Después con el tiempo, fui descubriendo otras motivaciones que fue trabajador social porque a mi me gusta comunicarme y ayudar a las personas…

Así como me ayudaron a mi!

En agosto de 2014, mi mama y yo contactamos al programa Pasaje Seguro.

Fuimos a la oficina y me entrevistaron.

Un tiempo después, me llamaron para comunicarme que encontraron una abogada interesada en mi caso.

Me sentía alegre. Pero también me sentía nervioso, porque sabía que iba a tener que contar mi historia. Habían momentos que eran muy difíciles para mi expresarme porque habían pasado cosas dolorosas en mi niñez.

Pero con el tiempo, establecí una relación de confianza con mi abogada y me hizo sentir cómodo.

Me sentía con mas seguridad en la corte. Con mi abogada, aprendí a sentirme mas seguro de mi mismo, al contar mi experiencia y al responder a las preguntas que me hacían.

Más que darme una abogada, Pasaje Seguro me dio otras oportunidades de conocer a mas jóvenes como yo que inmigraron a los EEUU y conocer sus historias.

4 años después de mi primera entrevista en Pasaje Seguro, recibí una llamada de ellos diciéndome que ya habían aceptado mi aplicación para la residencia permanente. Me sentí muy alegre porque allí me di cuenta que todo mis esfuerzos de venir aquí valían la pena.

Ser inmigrante sin documentos no es fácil. Uno no se siente parte de los EEUU. A veces yo caminaba con miedo de que me podrían regresar a mi pais.

Pero más que todo, pensaba en mi abuela y la posibilidad de no poder volver a verla.

Cuando recibí esa llamada, recuerdo que lloré de la felicidad.

Ahora con mi residencia, tengo mas motivación para salir adelante y superarme. Lo que pensaba que era una ilusión, ahora es realidad.

Todo esto es gracias al programa Pasaje Seguro por haberme ayudado todo este tiempo en mi proceso migratorio y ayudarme a poder lograr mis sueños.

Gracias por escucharme hoy.