Yamel y Steffany. (Foto: Cortesía/ Esperanza)

Steffany, Yamel’s partner, told Impacto:

Yamel and I met through a Puerto Rican friend of ours who was like a brother to me.  Yamel had been his barber. Another friend of ours wanted to celebrate her birthday, so we all went out together.  And the first time we met; we didn’t like each other at all!  He was very handsome, but I don’t know if he was nervous or what – he talked a lot and I talked a lot, and it was almost like we were talking past each other. He got frustrated when he didn’t understand our inside jokes. He was very sarcastic during that first encounter.  But the second date was incredible.  We went skating. Yamel didn’t know how to skate, but it was so romantic teaching him, holding hands.  Afterwards we shared a sandwich, a simple serene moment, and we exchanged numbers.

Yamel recalled:

My first impression of her was that she laughed. A lot. She was pure laughter. But for me marriage was not really in the cards.  My parents had a dysfunctional marriage. I didn’t really believe in this dream.  To me it was a broken dream, non-existent.  But when things started to change in my life, with my faith and my mother, I felt differently. And Steffani and I got to know each other so well. I remember at one point, I had just enough money to cover the rent, but I felt compelled by a greater force, almost like a vision from God, to go and buy the ring and propose that day. I knew she was the person that I wanted to take this step with, so I took the plunge.

Steffany adds:

We got married in 2016, and since then we tried to create a plan to make sure that Yamel could get permanent immigration status in this country. In 2019, I was working for Esperanza, and that’s how I first got to know Esperanza. I also got to know Reverend Ruben Ortiz, and other members of the Esperanza family. One of these members gave us the contact of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services and said that they may be able to help us. We realized we had the funds to pay for the application and we took the decision to do it with Esperanza. We got to know our lawyer, and we loved her. She was a perfectionist. She collaborated with us. We filed in 2019, but then with the pandemic, everything stopped in its tracks. And in the meantime, the political climate made us nervous that the requirements would become more demanding. But all we could do was wait.

Yamel reflects about the experience:

For us it was spectacular to use the services of Esperanza because it was affordable, and because it based in the community. We needed that support. During the pandemic, Esperanza also supported me at the barbershop, when it was much needed, so the support came from many angles, and made us feel integrated into a bigger support system. The attorney demanded excellence from us. You know, I think it was more difficult going through the mock interview with her, than the actual interview at USCIS; we were that well-prepared. They work like they have a deep-rooted passion for the work. It’s more than a job for them. They treat it almost like is their duty, an ingrained part of their principles, to uplift the community, no matter how hard it may be.

Thank you, Yamel and Steffany, for sharing your story with us!)

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