Nine-year-old boy who came from Honduras in 2012 now enjoys U.S. residence, dreams of college

At age 9, Jorge* left his home in coastal Honduras with just a suitcase and a backpack and came to the United States with dreams of a better life. Accompanied by his 18-year-old uncle, Jorge, who was traveling without a passport, ultimately reunited with his grandmother in Georgia.

Among the highlights of his weeks-long journey: crossing the Rio Grande on a floater, being detained in the desert after the duo was abandoned by their smuggler, separating from his uncle, two nights in juvenile jail in Texas and a stint with other immigrant children at a facility in Chicago.

Jorge, who is now 11, arrived in Atlanta in the fall of 2012 uncertain of his fate. But less than two years after his frightening journey, his future is looking brighter. Earlier this year, Jorge, who was represented by LAA immigration attorney Jessica Daman, became a permanent resident of the U.S. thanks to an immigration remedy known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) for unaccompanied immigrant children who are unable to go back to their home country because they have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment. (Jorge was eligible for SIJS because his father had abandoned him and his mother was unable to provide economically for him).

When he turns 18, Jorge will be eligible for citizenship. He is now at ease and relishing his new immigration status.

“I am not afraid to be deported or worried that I am going to have immigration problems. I am already a resident,” says Jorge in Spanish. “My blood is Honduran but I consider myself an American.”

Though he misses his mom and brother, and has yet to meet his new baby sister, Jorge is indeed enjoying his American life in Norcross, where he lives with his grandmother, who is now his legal guardian, and her husband. He delights in things we take for granted, like air conditioning and hot water. “I used to shower with very cold water,” he says. “And we didn’t have a lot of food.”

Jorge, a rising sixth grader, enjoys math and science. He loves playing with Legos and HotWheels cars. And he writes songs in English.

“I don’t get bored at home,” he says. “I have two computers and I enjoy playing video games.”

Jorge talks of attending Georgia Gwinnett College and dreams of becoming a doctor, lawyer or pilot, or perhaps joining the Army at 21.

Jorge says he left Honduras because his mom encouraged him to come to the United States in search of a better life. “She made the decision that I come here. At first I didn’t want to,” he says.  “She told me that in the U.S. there were more opportunities.”

Though he was frightened during his journey, which he did mostly by bus, Jorge says he was treated well when he spent two nights in jail. “They brought me a lot of food and would give me gifts,” he says. And when he was at the juvenile facility in Chicago for three weeks, he was surrounded by other immigrant children and they would all eat together and watch movies together, and even go on outings.

While in Chicago, he was allowed to talk to his grandmother every night for five minutes.

“Every day he would tell me ‘I am arriving tomorrow,’ ” says his grandmother.

He finally did. On Sept. 21, 2012, wearing a red polo shirt, Jorge arrived in Atlanta by plane. SPRING 2014 

*The child’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.