Local Venezuelan woman still seeking asylum status after seven years

[anvplayer video=”5193577″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A local Venezuelan woman has been waiting several years to get asylum status. She fled her homeland with her husband and two daughters, after she said the government threatened them.

News10NBC’s Eriketa Cost is sharing her story, to learn more about the process asylum seekers have to go through in our country. Over 100 asylum seekers, bused from New York City, are staying at the Holiday Inn on State Street. Many are fleeing persecution in their home countries, with hopes to start a new life.

Raymir Ortega-Debriceno describes fleeing her home country, Venezuela, in 2016.

“We were persecuted, me and my husband, because we didn’t agree with the government, and their policy,” she said. “We grew up in democracy, and we had a beautiful country, the economy wasn’t the best but it wasn’t like it is now. So we didn’t want that for our daughters.”

She left with her husband and two daughters, not more than a week after finding threats written on her wall, after the government entered her home: “If you don’t stop bothering us, we will go against your family.”

Raymir’s family arrived with a tourist visa. With the help of an attorney, she applied for a work permit.

“It was like 150 days to apply for a work permit. So the work permit, after you wait 150 days, takes like three months I think,” she said.

Her first job was in retail. But she aspired to work in healthcare, since she already had a degree. Over time, and with practice in the English language, she landed a job working at the bone marrow lab at Strong Memorial Hospital.

The Biden administration recently renewed a temporary work status for Venezuelans to work in the United States, while they wait for employment authorization.

Many asylees who were bused from New York City this summer are staying at the Holiday Inn on State Street, working with attorneys like Kevin Roman with Journey’s End.

“The stories that I’ve heard are really quite concerning about their home country, in the circumstances in which they had to flee their home country, and they’re just looking to win their asylum cases, and move forward with their lives,” said Roman.

Many don’t speak English, so he’s been working with translators. Roman said it’s his job to advise them on their rights, and prepare them for court proceedings to gain asylum status. He said criteria is strict; they have to have a well-founded fear of persecution, usually based around political opinion, religion or ethnicity.

Roman said after they submit the asylum application, they have to wait another 180 days to become eligible for employment authorization.

Raymir said the situation in Venezuela hasn’t changed much since she left.

“I believe they are really desperate and I understand that, totally,” she said, about the asylees from New York City.

Seven years after settling in the United States, and Raymir is still waiting for an interview for asylum status. She’s currently living with the title “‘”asylum petitioner,”’” which is not a legal status. She’s working with the TPS (Temporary Protected Status) protection.

Her message to viewers? Asylum seekers want to work. Many are just seeking new opportunities, new friendships with Americans and a better life.

“Lately, the Venezuelan mind back in Venezuela has been set to get everything for free. That’s the way the government wants you to think – ‘I’m depending on you,’” she said. “But if you see someone looking for a job and you can just give them an opportunity to work, that would be great for them.”