the story of los guerra

I hear a lot of family immigration stories. Between my near-obsessive activity on and the fact that random friends, family and acquaintances tend to share the immigration stories of their friends, family and acquaintances with me – well, it’s a lot of stories.

Yesterday, for example, one of the sales representatives I work with in New York initiated a three-way call to her friend and I (at work) so that I could chat with the friend whose Swedish husband is stuck in some sort of visa purgatory in Europe. That was a first! The fact that I have not tired of these stories, and truly enjoy directing people in any small way I can, helps me realize this is a subject that is with me for the long haul.

It’s rare though, to hear a story quite as compelling, interesting and terrible as the one I am about to share with you all:

In 1997, Carlos G. was a 15-year-old high-school student in large, modern Monterrey, Mexico. He studied electronics at a competitive school with aspirations toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering and time abroad in Japan. Then his parents split, and his mom decided, against Carlos’ will, that they were going to live in the U.S.

So they went, and along the way, his mom forced him to go through a border checkpoint using the birth certificate of his U.S. citizen cousin. Carlos was caught and “thrown back” at the border, only to have his mom arrange for another family member to assist him in crossing with his brother’s valid border crossing card a while later. He remained in the U.S. until this year.

During the following years, Carlos started an ESL program at a U.S. high school, quickly learning English, and later Italian, Catalan and French. He again became a top student and went to college. He met and fell in love with Amy, a fellow Chicagoan and U.S. citizen, and the two married earlier this year. Tired of living as an “illegal” immigrant, they sold everything they had and left the U.S., originally planning to live in Spain, but later deciding to return to Monterrey to settle temporarily. At some point, they started researching their immigration options, and quickly realized they were stuck, very stuck.

Very few people know this, but on the short list of things you can never overcome in U.S. immigration, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship is the worst offense. When the couple showed up on, however, a number of us wondered whether the fact that he was a minor and not the one responsible for the decision, might give them a chance at a waiver for the misrepresentation and unlawful presence.

According to attorney Laurel Scott, who specializes in family immigration matters and particularly inadmissibilities and waivers, “For the moment, minors – regardless of how old they were at the time, sometimes we’re talking about babies – are held responsible for misrepresentation committed on their behalf by another. Many attorneys have postulated that misrepresentation requires “intent” and that children under a certain age cannot form that intent. As strong as this argument is, we’re still losing on this argument at the consulate. Remember, consular decisions are non-appealable, so even if you think the consular officer is wrong, generally speaking, you lose.”

It’s difficult to believe, but apparently true, that if a foreign-born infant is admitted to the country with a U.S. citizen passport or birth certificate, they might live their whole childhood in the U.S. believing themself to be a citizen, only to find out that not only are they not a citizen, and that they never, ever will be.

As Amy G. stated on recently, “What angers me is that he had no choice – when your parents force you to move illegally and you’re a teen, what are you supposed to do? Disobey your parents, run away and try to live alone in Mexico? It’s not like he wanted the future that faced him in the US, but he knew he had no shot on his own in Mexico.”

Carlos and Amy are getting settled in Monterrey. They are handling the situation like pros, making the best of it in every way, from traveling all around Europe to blogging and adapting to their new lifestyle. I’m envious of Amy’s courage – even being fairly cynical about my own country – it would be very difficult to imagine never living here again, and never having my spouse visit with my parents, friends or relatives ever again.

There are a lot of problems in the immigration system, and a whole load of them have to do with inefficiency. I encounter dozens of people complaining about the laws that keep their spouses out of the U.S. every day, but many of us realize on some level, even if we personally disagree with how the system works, that there is some logic to the waiver system. I’m not saying it’s a great system, but I think it’s relatively fair, with exceptions, like the 9(c) law, but that’s a topic for another post.

However, how can a supposedly just system punish minors for immigration violations performed by their parents? There is no justice in that. Another loss for the U.S.


6 Responses to the story of los guerra

  1. Amy G says:

    What an excellent description of our situation! Thank you, Laura, for shedding light on such a sad aspect of the law.

  2. laurafern says:

    Thank you very much! I’m glad it’s accurate. I think I should write up more stories like this…

  3. gabachayucateca says:

    Oh man, I so cringed when I saw mention of the US citizen docs used.

    Aside from the fact that I don’t know if this particular issue was covered in the proposed Dream Act, I still think that pushing for something similar to this Act is sooo important. I mean, how cruel and idiotic is it to punish someone who was brought as a small child to the US and knows nothing else?

    But I do not know if, even if the Dream Act had passed, someone who claimed US citizenship would have been granted amnesty.

  4. laurafern says:

    I’m fairly certain that even if the DREAM Act had passed, at some point his visa would have been denied. Falsely claiming USC-ship really is the worst immigration crime one can commit. Sad, huh?

  5. Marco says:

    Hi I have the exact same situation as your husband please email me

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