Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Separated Spouses Testify Before Congress

"What good has been done from my family being broken up?" asked Thomas Wasilewski of the Chicago area, whose wife, Janina, was deported to Poland.

In two weeks Thomas Wasilewski, an immigrant from Poland and long-time Chicago area resident will become a proud citizen of the United States. Unforutnately, his wife of 14 years and his son will not be there to celebrate. This past June, his wife, Janina, was deported.

"Unfortunately, my family is one of the many families who suffer due to irrational immigration law in our country," Wasilweski told the House Judiciary Committee Subcommitee on Immigration last week during a hearing on the STRIVE Act.

"Despite my legal status and the support of our community, I was not able to stop her deportation," he said. >To read his full testimony click here.

Eduardo Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen and elisted Petty Officer in the United States Navy, testified that he worries his wife, Mildred, may also face deportation.

Mildred's mother came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1989 when Mildred was five yeard old. This was a period of war and strife in the Central American region and she feard for her family's safety. In 2000, she applied for asylum under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) and included Mildred on her application.

Although the U.S. government granted her mother legal status in July 2004, the couple's decision to marry six weeks earlier cancelled Mildred's eligibility to obtain status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under 21 years old.

"At the time we got married, we did not know that Mildred and her mother would have an appointment with immigration in July of 2004. After all, they had already been waiting for 4 years for an appointment at that time," Gonzalez told the Subcommittee members.

In June 14, 2007, the couple appeared in court expecting that Mildred would be given at most 120 days to leave country. The judge, knowing that Gonzalez was about to be deployed and had a 20-month old son, decided gave Mildred a 12-month extension, Gonzalez testified.

"We recognize that Mildred has been fortunate to get extensions. These extensions do not solve our problem, but only prolong it. On June 8, 2008, if Mildred's legal status does not change she will have 60 days to voluntarily depart the United States or she will be deported," he said. >To read his full testimony click here.

Stories of Separated Families Not Unique

"I wonder whether our country [is] any safer or any better now that Janina is gone. What good has been done from my family being broken up?" Thomas Wasilewski said.

He told the Subcommittee members, "I hope this hearing and my testimony will help all the separated families so they can be united again. I also hope that my testimony will move you, members of this committee, to fix our immigration laws so that no more families need to be torn apart."

"As you may already know, my family is not the only one going through the same situation," Gonzalez said. "Many will not come forward and speak about it because they fear they might have to pay the consequences. Mildred and I also worry that this might have a negative impact on us, but given this opportunity, we feel that if we tell our story we might be helping out others in same situation." he said.

You Can Help Keep Families Together
Write to your member of Congress to keep families together or use our online tool to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Sample Text: As a person who believes that families are the essential components of productive and healthy societies, I am greatly troubled that multi-status immigrant families are being torn apart. The separation of children from their parents, husbands from wives, and elderly parents from their loved ones is cruel and inhumane. This does not reflect the values and guiding principles of our nation.

I urge you to lead with conviction and exert visionary and humane leadership that keeps families intact and allows them to continue to contribute to our nation's vibrancy, growth and future. Please play a vocal policy role in repairing our broken and out-of-date immigration system now.