Mariana Munera met Luz Oviedo in March. Luz is 75 years old, Mariana is 23. Luz, who is a breast cancer survivor, had met earlier with a LegalHealth attorney working onsite at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. LegalHealth operates clinics in 25 hospitals across the New York region, partnering with social workers and medical staff to provide low-income patients with legal services that can help to improve health outcomes.


Mariana and Luz

Luz was concerned because her green card was about to expire and she did not have the money to pay the renewal fee. She was also very afraid because of the steps taken by the new administration to tighten immigration rules. Despite her legal status, as a part of the immigrant community she felt threatened. Luz only speaks Spanish and gets lost easily so her lawyer arranged to have Mariana, a paralegal with LegalHealth, accompany her to the Queens Medicaid Office to get a letter confirming she receives benefits and is therefore eligible for a fee waiver.

“Luz and I instantly clicked. I was also born in Colombia and she reminded me of my grandmother,” said Mariana. “She has such a sweet personality, speaks poetically and emotionally – but is also so strong.”

NYLAG submitted her application to renew her green card and her fee waiver was approved. She received a notice to go to a USCIS Application Support Center for her biometrics appointment which she did, with Mariana by her side. (The picture above was taken right after her appointment.)

Almost a year later, Luz at long last has her green card renewed and is relieved she can go back to Colombia for the winter holidays.

Mariana and the LegalHealth team now hope to help Luz apply for naturalization and become a U.S. citizen. This is very important to Luz, but she does not think she can pass the naturalization exam with the memory loss she experiences. Mariana is working with a social worker at Elmhurst to find a doctor who can evaluate her and provide a medical waiver for the exam. There is also an effort underway to help Luz find a new place to live, since her basement apartment has minimal heat during the winter months.

Mariana meanwhile is looking ahead. She just had her first-year anniversary at NYLAG and is committed to immigration law. She took the LSATs in September.

“When the election happened, I knew what I wanted to do. Immigration relief is limited and it’s a long and hard road to get there, but it’s what I want to do with my life.”