A New Beginning for the Yepez Family

May 8, 2024

Six months ago, a family of four stepped into a new world in the U.S. Cristian, his wife, and their two little girls brought more than just luggage—they carried a story of courage and determination.

In Venezuela, life was tougher than many of us can imagine. A family in Venezuela earns about $5 a month. A dozen eggs costs $4, and a gallon of milk costs $8.

Flour, butter, and the basic food that we take for granted could eat up a month’s pay. Teachers earn so little that they barely manage to open schools for two days a week.

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Yepez Family ice cream cart in Venezuela

Living in Venezuela, Cristian’s daughters dreamed of milk with their morning cereal, but consider it a luxury they can’t afford.

Cristian made ends meet by making ice cream and selling it on the streets in Venezuela. Gangs, he said, were backed by the government and demanded $100 a week just to let him continue to sell his ice cream. It was much more than he could afford.

That is when Cristian and his wife decided to leave Venezuela with their two girls and come to the U.S.

Their journey was not easy. They faced the terrifying Darien jungle, where they saw unspeakable things, like a young man who just… gave up.

On their journey, there was no food, and they were exhausted from carrying their 4- and 6-year-old girls on their shoulders. Despite all that, they were walking toward a dream.

Crossing borders and dealing with uncertainties, they made it to Mexico, to the U.S., and through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection – CBP One™ process. They missed home but were grateful for the safety they found.

And they were grateful for the Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center (JAMLAC). JAMLAC provides high-quality representation to low-income Denver immigrants with removal defense and affirmative applications through a universal representation model.

When full representation is not possible, JAMLAC provides legal consultations, advice, and advocacy while increasing pro bono capacity to provide additional representation.

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Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center (JAMLAC)

JAMLAC holds work permit workshops, which help migrants who have recently arrived in the U.S. apply for their Employment Authorization Document (EAD)/work permit, a crucial step in building their new lives here. It was at this workshop where the Yepez family found helping hands. Dedicated volunteers assist many newcomers, just like Cristian’s family, to navigate the maze of obtaining work permits.

Now, Cristian looks forward to putting his HVAC skills to use, while his wife is eager to pick up her psychology studies.

“We have talents, and we are here to work. That’s all we want. We came here to work and to add to this city. I love the English language,” Cristian says.

His daughters, now with bellies full of milk and cereal, dream. One wants to help heal others as a doctor, and the other wants to paint the world with her colors.

The Yepez family is grateful to Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center, the workshops, the volunteers, and all the organizations who helped them. Cristian feels like they made a “miracle,” and gave him a chance to work and live with dignity. For Cristian, not just about the social security number or the work permit—it’s the chance to succeed and be part of a community that welcomes them.

Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center, and funding from the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund managed by The Denver Foundation made it possible.