With the upcoming Provisional Waiver changes, as well as the, June 4, 2012 change to allow mail requests to waive certain grounds of inadmissibility directly to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox facility, we have to remember that Waivers are complicated and frustrating to handle. But his article, prepared by attorney Ekaterina Powell from our office will focus on a success story we are happy to share.
For many, immigration to the United States through marriage to U.S. citizens is an easy process that leads to permanent residency within 6 months. For others, the road to permanent residency in the U.S. is a thorny one, consisting of years of separation, extreme hardships suffered by the family members, followed by administrative delays, immigration backlogs, and struggles as they go through the immigration system.
Our firm is especially happy when we are able to help our clients in a particular difficult case which results in another family being reunited.
This time, we would like to share with you a success story of a case that our firm had a pleasure to work on – after more than 10 years of separation from his family, Enrique was finally reunited with his family!
This is a story of a brave family that has gone through 10 years of separation, financial struggles, desperation, but has carried on hope that the father will be reunited with his wife and two children in the United States. Not every marital union sustains for 10 years, especially when the couple is forced to build their family while being separated for all this time. Only the strongest and most admirable family unions can go through all the hardships and start their lives together again after 10 years of being apart.
Enrique is a citizen of Mexico. He first came to the U.S. in 1998 illegally to study English and work. In the fall of 1999, Enrique enrolled in adult English learning classes where he met Samantha who was an English teacher there. Soon after they met, the couple started dating. In December 1999, Enrique left the U.S. to visit his family in Mexico. He tried to come back to the U.S. in February 2000 by presenting someone else’s border crossing card, but was stopped at the border and ordered removed from the U.S. He was given a five year bar to enter the U.S. What the couple did not know at that point is that by presenting someone else’s border crossing card, Enrique became subject to a misrepresentation bar, waiverable only if Enrique proved extreme hardship to his U.S. citizen spouse if not allowed to immigrate.
In addition, since Enrique had been present in the U.S. illegally for more than 1 year and then tried to reenter the U.S. without being admitted, he became subject to another permanent bar, which could only be waived after Enrique spent 10 years outside of the United States.
However, at the time, Enrique and Samantha did not know about all that. They thought that they only have to struggle for 5 years, and then Enrique would be able to come back to the U.S. The couple decided to get married in a hope that they would be able to manage their relationship living in different countries for the next 5 years.
Samantha even tried moving to Mexico to be with Enrique, but she developed severe bronchitis condition, which was not effectively treated by the doctors in Mexico. Samantha could not get a teaching job there and was experiencing financial hardship. The house that the couple lived in got robbed. Scared for her safety, unable to manage her chronic illness in Mexico, Samantha returned to the U.S.
At that time, when 5 years had almost passed, Samantha sought legal help and found out that her family has to spend 5 more years before they can even try to bring Enrique to the U.S.
In order to be closer to each other, Samantha moved to San Diego while Enrique stayed in Tijuana. Despite living across the border, Samantha and Enrique decided to build a family together and have a child. Following the birth of their son, Samantha was working a full-time job as an elementary school teacher and crossed the border daily in order for her husband to take care of their son during the day while Samantha worked.
Samantha lived and worked in San Diego from 2006 to 2011 trying to raise her son the best she could with her husband living across the border. The life got harder when Samantha’s and Enrique’s son was diagnosed with autism and required special treatment that was unavailable in Mexico.
With Samantha’s full-time job, childcare, and crossing the border twice per day, she had only 4(!) hours of sleep each day. This grueling schedule began to wear on Samantha and impacted her ability to function efficiently at work and in the home. Samantha lost her job teaching and took a part-time position in the school office, a position that was less demanding but less paying.
After the couple had their second child, an unplanned pregnancy, the life has gotten even harder. Samantha started experiencing symptoms of severe anxiety and depression. Unable to cope with the situation by herself, desperate, Samantha moved to Mideast in the winter of 2011 to get some help from her parents. It was a devastating decision for Samantha to move away from Enrique. The children were not able to see their father anymore.
When Samantha came to our office, we started the immigrant visa case along with preparation of two waivers: 1) I-601 waiver application for misrepresentation bar and 2) I-212, permission to reapply for admission to the U.S., also known as a permanent bar waiver, available only after the applicant has spent 10 years outside of the United States.
With the case, we submitted extensive documentation to show that Samantha would experience extreme hardship if Enrique was not allowed to come to the United States. In our brief, we explained that Samantha would not be able to relocate to Mexico and that it would be equally impossible for her to continue living away from Enrique in the U.S.
With the case, we provided documentation to show that relocating to Mexico is not an option for Samantha due to her chronic illness that gets aggravated while she is there, due to unavailable special treatment for the child with autism, due to her inability to continue her career as an elementary school teacher, strong family and community ties in the U.S. and other important factors.
In our brief, we explained that special education for children with autism was unavailable in Mexico and that Samantha would suffer to see her child struggle with the condition without any means of helping him. If the child continues his treatment, he has a chance to develop the skills needed to lead a normal life, obtain employment and become independent. If he is unable to receive the treatment he needs, it will cause lifelong effects on his parents who would be forced to take care of and provide assistance to their son for the rest of his life because he would be unable to take care of himself. In addition, we provided documentation and explained that it would be impossible to raise a child with autism without both parents present.
With the case, we provided sufficient documentation and explained that Samantha was not able to continue living in the U.S. without Enrique and that she needed him to support the family and take care of the children.
Samantha appeared to be in a vicious circle. She could not maintain her job and support her family because she had to take care of her baby daughter and her son, who was in need of special autism treatment. Without a full-time job, Samantha would not be able to financially support her family. Enrique was working in Mexico giving guitar lessons and repairing remote control helicopters. He only made enough money to partially support himself and was not able to assist Samantha in providing for the children.
Samantha has already tried to live away from Enrique, trying to juggle her full-time job in order to support the family, taking care of the baby and her child with autism, helping her parents who were in poor health condition, without anyone’s support. She is no longer capable to support her family by herself. Samantha does not have anyone else she could rely on except her husband. If Enrique is not allowed to immigrate, Samantha will not be able to maintain her job, afford special intervention services for their son, and will not be able to take care of their baby daughter.
Due to her overwhelming parenting responsibilities, demanding job duties, special needs of her son, Samantha has developed major depressive disorder symptoms and severe anxiety. Samantha was no longer able to cope with her life without Enrique.
Enrique appeared for a waiver interview at the U.S. Embassy in Ciudad Juarez in the summer of 2011 and submitted both of his waivers. Within a month, I-601, misrepresentation waiver was approved. However, we have not heard anything about I-212 for several months. After numerous attempts to contact Ciudad Juarez, they let us know that they did not have a record of I-212 submitted and that we had to submit it again in the U.S. We resubmitted the waiver to USCIS with the jurisdiction over the matter.
After months of waiting for the response, USCIS let us know that due to intra agency transfers, they were still waiting for Enrique’s file to come from Ciudad Juarez. The case was sitting in the piles of hundreds of other cases for several months, and none of our attempts to expedite adjudication of the case led to any results.
Meanwhile, the hardships experienced by the family have gotten even worse. Samantha’s parents were no longer able to help her with the children, Samantha could not take a job to support herself and her children and thought of applying for governmental financial help. For Enrique, the process felt like an endless string of madness, bureaucracy, frustration, desperation, and hope that all that will be well worth reuniting with the family.
Only after the interference of a Congressman, USCIS was finally able to locate the file, and I-212 wavier was adjudicated within 30 days. Last month, Enrique went to a follow up appointment in Ciudad Juarez where he was granted the immigrant visa.
Enrique is now back with his family. Seeing your child make the first step causes a tear in the eye of many fathers. Seeing the first years of the child’s life through a webcam would make any father cry. While being apart, Enrique missed many precious moments in the life of his children. He is now grateful that he is able to recoup the moments of happiness and start his life all over again with his family.
When we help our clients work their way through the immigration system to allow them to join their families in the United States, we feel the clients’ frustration with the immigration process, administrative delays, and their personal hardships. No words can express how happy we are to see that our client is finally able to immigrate to the U.S. and that another family is reunited after years of struggles and separation.
Adjudicators reviewing hardship waivers have hundreds of cases in front of them. For them, Enrique is one of the hundreds. Day after day reviewing hardship waivers, each case seems the same. Within the stacks of documents, the actual lives of people are lost and you cannot see their hopes and struggles.
It is our job as advocates for our clients to present each case in a way that an adjudicator can vividly see the people that stand behind the waiver and the hardships that the family has gone through for the years of separation.
If you need help immigrating to the U.S., our office will be happy to provide you with a free initial consultation and discuss the options available to you.