Family. That is the most important thing for Mari.* She starts each day with her children, doing chores around the house and feeling happy when her children are strong and healthy. As a good mother, she always wanted the best for her children and never wanted to be separated from them. But Mari gave birth to her first daughter in one of the most dangerous countries in the world where no matter how hard one works; one can’t make enough to live peacefully. It was impossible for Mari to have both things she wanted.

She chose to create the best life for her children. To achieve this, she had to make the decision to come to the United States, leaving her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter in El Salvador with her parents. She did not want her to also face the risks of coming without documentation.

It was very difficult to leave her first child, the child she had waited for with so much longing and love. When she arrived in the United States, her husband watched her crying every night from wanting to go back for her daughter. It was very hard to be away from the person she loved the most and had longed for so much.

It was 18 years before her husband was able to petition for her daughter and bring her legally to the United States. Now it has been 6 years since her daughter came, but the pain of the separation for so many years is still there. Sometimes her daughter reproaches her for leaving her. Mari knows that she is consoled by the knowledge that the sacrifice was for her, and today she sees the results of that hard decision. Her daughter does not lack what Mari lacked as a child.

There are days when Mari takes care of her granddaughter while her daughter goes to work. Perhaps this is a way for her daughter to understand the need to leave a child, even for the day, and how difficult it is to do so.

Her daughter is here, but Mari's family is still separated. Mari, almost 22 years after coming to the United States, has still not been given legal residency. She has not been able to return to El Salvador because of the legal complications. She’s not able to leave the country without having problems upon her return. In the case of her mother, it has been a permanent separation. Her mother passed away three months ago and Mari felt the pain of not being able to be with her, not even at her funeral.

She hopes not to go through the same thing with her father. She yearns for the residency application NOMAS' submitted to be approved. The first thing she will do once it’s approved will be to go visit her father in El Salvador. No matter how much the trip costs, the desire to be reunited with her father is so great that as soon as she gets her residency, she will do everything—as she has always done by working hard until she accomplishes her goals—to get to El Salvador as quickly as she can and finally be together with her family again.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

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