Maria Tavira, a young mother of four, emigrated from Mexico to the United States in search of a better future and life for her and her family. However, the brutal murder of her eldest son Ivan dramatically changed the lives of the Tavira Miranda family. Fourteen-year old Ivan Miranda, Maria's oldest son, was stabbed to death and robbed by gang members on July 31, 2008, in the Excelsior District. Ivan was walking to a friend’s house to return a borrowed iPod, which turned out to be the object of the robbery.
Police reported that Ivan was an innocent victim caught up in an act of gang vengeance. Several friends and family members stated that Ivan had no chance in defending himself against the attackers. It is uncertain why they chose to harm Ivan, especially since the culprits had gone to grammar school with him. Ivan was not involved in any gangs or criminal activity. Ivan was a good son and an excellent student at Mission High, who had scored well on his last Start Test.
In the beginning of the murder investigation the police were at a loss, since no one could identify the assailants. Upon hearing there was an actual witness to the murder of her son Maria went to speak to the individual to convince him to testify. Maria was critical in assisting in the investigation and prosecution of the assailants by convincing the main witness, her son’s best friend, to come forward against Ivan’s attackers. Although the process was painful and traumatic for the family, they all showed up to every court hearing. Currently the assailants have state criminal and federal criminal charges against them and they are being tried as adults.
Shortly after her son’s death, Maria made the difficult decision to stop working so that she could be present on an everyday basis to provide her children with the emotional support and love they needed to overcome this tragedy. Rather than letting this tragedy defeat her, Maria was empowered to become a stronger community advocate for families that are victims of violence and crime. She also became integral in a parent group in the Mission District where parents discussed issues and possible solutions to preventing violent crimes among those in the community. On behalf of La Raza, Maria spoke poignantly of her family’s tragic story and about the immigration legal services that we have provided at San Francisco Immigrant Family Day at City Hall. After speaking, many women who had lived a similar experience came up to her and thanked her for sharing her story of strength and courage. They told her that she inspired them to be able to move on from their own harrowing life experiences. Maria also was acknowledged in letters of recommendation as a person of great moral character and as a community leader by Board of Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos.
Maria came to La Raza Centro Legal after her son’s death for a legal consult regarding the possibility of U-Visa eligibility as an indirect victim of her son’s murder. Vicky Castro, the Immigration Unit Coordinator, helped advocate for Maria’s U-Visa certification with the District Attorney’s Victim Services Department and also applied for her as a principal applicant for a U-visa. Ms. Castro also applied for Ms. Tavira’s three children's derivative U-visa applications including supplemental I-192, and I-193 applications. La Raza Centro Legal prepared fee waivers for the whole family, totaling $3700 in application fees approved by USCIS. Ms. Tavira and her family received free legal services at La Raza and incurred no out of pocket expense!
While waiting for a decision by USCIS on their U-visa applications, the Tavira Miranda family was presented with another life obstacle: her middle child, her 2nd born son, had been picked up by the police on baseless charges that subsequently brought him into ICE custody. Although these charges were dropped, her son’s due process rights continued to be violated when they kept him in a high security juvenile detention center without merit. La Raza helped prepare the family reunification packet free of cost and advocated for expedited review and release of Ms. Tavira’s son. After 6 months, Ms. Tavira’s son was finally released and returned home.
La Raza Centro Legal is proud to announce that Maria and her children were all granted U-visa status, including employment authorization for her oldest daughter. In addition, La Raza was able to have proceedings terminated for Maria’s son based on his U-visa approval. La Raza is now helping them request permission to travel from USCIS to their home country of Mexico to have a formal burial for Ivan in July 2011.