by Alexandra W. Douglas, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Fighting for Family Unity: An Immigration Story from Denver
The Friend has consented to the story being posted on the blog, but all names have been changed to protect their identity.
Guillermo Rodriguez is my daughter’s husband and father of my grandson. We discovered that he is ineligible to receive a visa under the current Immigration and Nationality Act. He was told that since he had unlawfully crossed the border more than once that he would have to wait 10 years outside the before applying for a waiver. The waiver is needed because he was unlawfully present in the United States. After 10 years, the Attorney General has the discretion to grant a waiver if Guillermo's spouse or son can show extreme hardship. If he had unlawfully crossed the border only once, he could have received a waiver.
Guillermo first entered the United States from Mexico in 1995, when he was 18 years old, to work in Oregon agriculture. Since he missed his parents and little brother, he went home for Christmas in 1997. He was intercepted at the border upon his return in 1998 and voluntarily departed. He then reentered and returned to work in Oregon. Shortly after coming to the Denver area in 1999, he met my daughter Elizabeth at work. They married and had a son. They applied for a change in status for Guillermo shortly after getting married. He was hoping to receive a visa, green card and social security number to better provide for his American family.
Guillermo and I traveled to Mexico to receive his visa at the American Consulate. We thought he would have to be gone 30 or 40 days in order to receive a visa. But we were shocked to learn that under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996,* Guillermo is now classified inadmissible along with Nazi war criminals, terrorist and those who have committed serious criminal offenses such as murder, drug smuggling and child abduction. For going home for Christmas and returning to his job of helping to provide food for the American table, our family must now be torn apart. He is permanently barred from the United States, unless after 10 years someone is very sick or dying. Then maybe a waiver would be granted.
Many US lawmakers talk about family values, but do not apply these values to our real world. Guillermo is a devoted and loving father. The family is inseparable. Guillermo is devoted to his Mexican family of origin and his American family. He was looking forward to taking his family to his parents’ home for Christmas and legally returning to the United States. As the grandfather to Guillermo’s son, I am heartbroken. My daughter and grandson have to move to Mexico in order to preserve family unity. I was so looking forward to being with my grandson as he was growing up. My other daughter, Rebecca, was hoping that her baby son would have a cousin and good friend. Both sets of great-grandparents are having a hard time coping with this. We are all suffering the pain of separation caused by this Draconian law.
Everyone that hears this story cannot believe that such an anti-family law could be written in this country. This is cruel and unusual punishment not open to court review. The punishment is not for Guillermo alone. This punishment is for the whole family.
An American Consulate Officer told me that there are thousands of families in this situation. Please repeal Section 212 (a) (6) and related sections from the list of inadmissible aliens ineligible to receive visas. These sections refer to illegal entrants and immigration violators. Should they not receive visas if they otherwise meet all of the other qualifications for a visa? Unlawfully crossing the border more than once is just not in the same category as terrorism and serious criminal activity. Guillermo never misrepresented his status to an US official and admitted to his history. The law was made harsher in 1996. Elizabeth and Guillermo are young and knew nothing of this law change.
Please also allow applicants, who were previously found ineligible to receive a visa under these sections, the right to have their previous application for change in status reinstated with the American Consul with whom the application was filled. This repeal must have retroactive effect to help families caught in this unjust law.
Section 212(a)(9)(B)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that immigrants who have crossed the border undocumented only one time and have stayed for more than a year are subject to a 10 year bar of reentry from the date of the immigrant's removal from the United States. After 10 years, an immigrant under this section is eligible to apply for a visa as the spouse, son or daughter or child of a US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident.
Whereas, Section 212 (a)(9)(C)(I) states that immigrants who cross the border undocumented more than one time and have been present in the United States for an aggregate period of one year or more are barred from reentry for a period of ten years. After 10 years the immigrant may appeal to the Attorney General to issue a waiver of ineligibility IF the immigrant can prove that their citizen or permanent resident spouse or child is suffering from extreme hardship.