Does everyone remember my immigration journey? If not, and you have a little time, refresh yourself here and here. If you are unable to invest a few extra minutes – Fermin was an undocumented immigrant when he met. He had been working in the U.S. for six years — never arrested, no trouble with the law, worked steadily, often at two jobs, spoke English, went to technical school, held a driver’s license, etc, etc.
After we married and some time after we filed a petition for his legal residency, he returned to Mexico for a visa interview (because people who enter the U.S. without inspection are generally not allowed to adjust their status inside the United States). He was found ineligible for a visa based on unlawful presence but eligible for a waiver of the ban. In order to get a waiver approved one has to prove that the U.S. citizen half of the relationship will suffer extreme hardship if the immigrant spouse is not allowed to return to the U.S. for ten years. Our waiver was approved nine months later, and he got his visa and returned to the U.S. a total of eleven months after he left.
I’ll admit it: Those were not good times. I managed, I think better than many, because I’m very independent, stayed busy, was enjoying my new job and got to do a lot of writing that year. But I also wasted a lot of money, ate too much, exercised too little, constantly wondered if our waiver would be approved and constantly wondered what we would do it were not approved (move to Mexico for ten years until he could reapply…. yeeah).
But “not good times” doesn’t begin to explain the travesty of an immigration journey I just read on immigrate2us.net today:
“Sunflower,” (forum name) a U.S. citizen, and her husband, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, started the same petition process more than four years ago. Mr. Sunflower was a minor when he entered the U.S. for the first time. He stayed for at least one year and was still a minor when he left the U.S. and then re-entered a second time without inspection. I don’t know how young he was but it’s entirely possible his parents brought him from Mexico into the U.S., then took him back to Mexico, then brought him here again. I’m not sure. Mr. Sunflower had his initial immigrant visa interview in the fall of 2005. Just like Fermin, his visa was denied, but he was allowed to file a waiver for his unlawful presence.
Sunflower waited in the U.S., her husband in Mexico, for nearly a year before their waiver was denied for not proving enough extreme hardship. (Lots of people submit very emotional letters and don’t include documentation, which can result in denial.) One month after receiving the denial Sunflower filed an appeal of the denial. They waited 18 months before hearing that the appeal had been approved this past March. But in order to actually receive his visa and return to the U.S., Mr. Sunflower had to return to the Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. And because it had been more than a year since initial his consular interview (waaaay back in 2005), he had to interview a second time. Here’s the kicker:
Sometime either late 2007 or early in 2008, the Consulate in Ciudad Juarez suddenly altered, without notice to attorneys or anyone, their interpretation of a subsection of the law which deals with multiple illegal entries into the U.S. Generally (and there are some exceptions) if a person enters the U.S. illegally, acquires more than a year of illegal presence, then leaves, then re-enters without inspection another time, they are not eligible for a waiver until they have spent ten years outside the U.S. Well, hypothetically, because Mr. Sunflower did this, he’s not eligible for the waiver. But because he was a minor when all that happened, it was not counted against him. All they took into account at his interview in 2005 was that since he was 18 he had been in the U.S. illegally. And since he had not left and re-entered since he was 18, he was eligible for the waiver.
The suddenly-instated interpretation. however, no longer applies the exception for minors. This means that no matter how old someone is, if they lived in the U.S. illegally for more than a year, then returned to Mexico (or wherever), and then re-entered again without inspection, they have to stay outside the U.S. for ten years before they can be eligible for immigrant visa. Ridiculous but all-too-plausible example: Let’s say Fermin’s parents had brought him here illegally to the U.S. when he was three. Then, when he was 10 and had already half grown up in the U.S., they decided to return to Mexico. They make it in Mexico for a year, and then decided they have to go back to the U.S. They take their son back across the border when he is 11 or 12. He continues to grow up in the U.S. Ten years later he meets me. We date, marry, file petitions for him, etc. He goes to his interview in Ciudad Juarez and is completely honest about his history. The officer bans him for life with the chance to file a waiver after he’s been out of the U.S. for ten years. For a decision wholly made by his parents. This is utterly, completely possible, and the very real scenario for a number of completely frustrated and stuck people from immigrate2us.net.
Worst is that there absolutely no way around this interpretation of the law. It doesn’t matter if you have a U.S. citizen spouse and three U.S. citizen children. It doesn’t matter if the U.S. citizen spouse is completely unable to move abroad because he or she is in the military or has medical problems that require treatment in the U.S. There is no overcoming this besides waiting for ten years.
Back to Mr. Sunflower – after three years outside the U.S., thousands spent on fees, petitions, medical exams, a waiver and an appeal, the consular officer at the interview looks over Mr. Sunflower’s history in March 2008 and determines he is not eligible for the waiver the way they interpret the laws today, and therefore, cannot get his visa. They retroactively apply their new interpretation of the law to this poor family, essentially leaving them no way to live together in the U.S. for another six to seven years. I fully understand that the law is the law, and I’m not going to even get into the intricacy and basically unclear wording that “justifies” their no longer forgiving minors their illegal presence. But trust me that it is RIDICULOUS. It is beyond freaking ridiculous.
I am pissed today, let me tell you… It’s not pretty. I wish there was something that could be done for this family, but with immigration, and all of this happening outside the United States, there is essentially no checks on their decisions. There is no one to even complain to. It’s a travesty.