Talha has faced more challenges in his young life than some people do in their entire lifetime, but life wasn’t always difficult. Born in Turkey, Talha grew up in a loving family with his parents and younger sister, supporters of the Hizmet Movement. For Talha, this meant having access to one of the best sources of education in his country. It provided him the opportunity to explore areas of study that were not accessible to the average Turkish student and introduced him to his love of robotics. After finishing middle school in the top percentage of students nationally, Talha eagerly prepared to attend one of the best high schools in his country. That summer, everything changed.
Known internationally as a progressive Muslim group focused on education, disaster relief, and medicine, the Hizmet Movement was blamed by Turkish political leaders for a coup attempt in July 2016. Turkish President Erdoğan alleged the Hizmet Movement was a terrorist organization and began imprisoning Movement leaders. Talha’s father was one of those political prisoners.
“My father was just helping people. He would travel to Somalia [to work on aid relief]. He helped people get coal in the cold winter. He was a good man, but they arrested him.”
Talha, his mother, and little sister were left to fend for themselves.
“We had no money, nothing. I couldn’t say my father was in the Hizmet Movement. I couldn’t tell people my father was in jail. I had to hide myself; it was really hard.”
Two years later, faced with limited opportunities for education, Talha decided to escape to the United States at the age of 17. He came to Charlotte to live with his father’s friend, who helped him connect to the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. The Advocacy Center’s help came at a crucial time.
“I didn’t know how to speak, how to write, or how to read English. I had no one around me. I had just escaped from my country, and I didn’t know how to be a refugee. But then my friend found Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.”
The Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program staff attorney, Kiara Vega, worked diligently to help Talha apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Talha’s application for SIJS was approved and he was granted a Green Card.
When Talha heard his request for permanent legal status was approved, he was overcome: “I was completing my college applications and I needed a Green Card, otherwise I wouldn’t be eligible for scholarships. One day my friend went to the mailbox and brought me an envelope. I opened it and it was my Green Card. At that moment, you cannot even realize my happiness. It meant college for me, it meant a future life in the US for me, it meant a lot.”
Talha believes the Advocacy Center changed his life. He wants to improve his English, but eloquently describes what the Advocacy Center means to him:
“I was in a room, the door was locked, and I couldn’t get out. I needed to open that door to get to my new world, into my new life. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy was the key. You helped me open the door.”
Now a student at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Talha’s future looks brighter as he pursues a degree in aerospace engineering. He maintains a strong relationship with his family back in Turkey and hopes they will be able to join him some day in the United States. He believes all his fellow Turkish citizens deserve a better future.
Your support of the Access to Justice Campaign ensures we can fight for young immigrants like Talha, providing opportunity and stable immigration status. Donate today to help us keep up the fight.