Both HIV and immigration law are extraordinarily complicated and ever evolving. The intersection of the two can be impossible for many people to comprehend. Way back in 2000, a woman who had moved to the Philadelphia area from Liberia with her four young children contacted us. They were allowed to enter the country in 1996 to be reunited with their husband and father, who had been granted political asylum.
When her husband became ill and died, the family’s future turned uncertain. Through the vagaries of immigration law, they were no longer eligible for asylum through him and had to apply on their own behalf.
Managing Attorney Yolanda French Lollis helped the mother and four children finally get asylum in 2006, which allowed them to apply for a green card.
The children were granted green cards, but the mother, who had HIV, faced numerous hurdles. Although an HIV waiver existed at the time, an applicant had to be healthy to get it and she was too sick to qualify.
Despite the obstacles, we continued to fight for the family. A combination of the mother’s improving health and changes in immigration law concerning HIV eventually allowed us to help her apply for a green card.
It was granted in December. Throughout the ordeal her children thrived in their new country. All four have graduated from college.
“She said, ‘Thank you for not giving up on me,’” Lollis said.