For seven days and nights, Tesfahiwet walked through the wilds of the notoriously dangerous Sudan—dodging authorities and wild animals alike. It was the beginning of a two-year journey, ultimately leading him to Northern California, where he would be reunited with his fiancé and baby daughter.
“It would not be a stretch to say that this was a life-saving move for Tesfahiwet,” says Kathy Differding, an immigration expert who works with California Human Development. “Men in Eritrea, where Tesfahiwet is from, are forced into the military and are not allowed to leave. He left on foot, taking nothing, including no identification.”
Tesfahiwet fled to Uganda to avoid the dangers of this county…and for an equally important reason because he had fallen in love. Tesfahiwet met Lette, a U.S. Citizen when she came to Eritrea for her father’s funeral. They got engaged and conceived a daughter, then Lette returned to the U.S. She was living here with the baby, and Tesfahiwet was desperate to be with them.
“Lette came to our us to inquire about obtaining a fiancé visa for Tesfahiwet, which is how we got the ball rolling to reunite this family. “ said Differding.
Differding did some investigative work and sought information needed to prove Tesfahiwet’s identity and confirm his story as a political refuge. She worked with the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and successfully obtained a fiancé visa. The couple was reunited, and Tesfahiwet met his young daughter for the first time.
Differding then helped Tesfahiwet to obtain his Green Card. He’s now happily living in Northern California (no longer fearing bullets or lions), attending school to master his English language skills, and working to help support his family.