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Our Travail with Immigration6 min read

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My mother-in-law could not come to our wedding because she could not get a VISA to come here.  In fact, after four years of marriage, I met her for the first time this past summer on a visit to Mexico.  We have gone through the machinations of the Byzantine immigration system, and still, we can’t get her here legally.  We’re pretty much down to writing our senators and governor.  Here is our letter to the governor.

You’ll note that some of our difficulty is due to her overstaying a
previous Visa, and neglecting to get and read documentation on
immigration decisions.  As it turns out, what they tell you and what
the paperwork says are sometimes NOT the same thing.  Lesson learned?
Always get it in writing.  Despite our mistakes, this agonizing process
seems a bit unfair to those of us who are making the effort to arrive
legally.  But perhaps our mistakes have caused most of the delays.  You
be the judge.


June 30, 2007

Dear Senator/Governor,

I’m writing to you with great respect and thankfulness for
taking the time to read my letter. I’m
writing to inform you of our family’s suffering at the hands of the current
immigration system, and asking for your assistance in this matter, if at all

My name is […], I’m 38 years old. I’m married and a mother of 5, and the oldest of 4 siblings, all of whom reside
in the U.S. When I became a US citizen about 8 years ago, I submitted a petition to sponsor my mother Margarita,
who lived in Mexico at the time taking care of my sick grandmother. My mother longed to re-unite with her children and grandchildren here in
the U.S., and this
intensified after my grandmother died, since my mother no longer had anyone to
care for or to be cared by in Mexico.

After a long and painful process, Margarita got her interview
appointment in Ciudad Juarez Mexico.  My family and I were all hopeful. "This is
it" we thought, "we will now enjoy our mother again." However, we spoke too soon.

Her visa was denied. It turned out that she had violated the law once previously by
overstaying a previous Visa.  She
admitted to that, and was told by immigration officials to stay in Mexico for
three years as a penalty for breaking the law, and to not try to re-apply until
the end of those 3 years. Unfortunately, she made the mistake of not getting
that directive in writing.

Margarita spent the next three years alone in Mexico without
any of her children. (She has been
separated from our father for many years, and he now lives with a common law
wife.) As hard as it was, we didn’t lose
hope, waited patiently, and refused to get a coyote to smuggle her into the U.S. illegally,
which was very tempting as weddings, births of grandkids, and many family
events came and went without Margarita’s presence.

After the end of those three years, I immediately contacted
a lawyer and we started the whole process again. We paid the legal and processing fees
(interestingly, about $2000, the same amount one would typically pay a coyote to
smuggle you across the border), did everything according to the law, hoping and that this time was going to work just fine. We finally got another
immigration appointment in Cuidad Juarez Mexico. My husband and I arranged child care and flew
to be present in her appointment. "This
time it will work and I want to be ready to bring her in with us immediately," I

It had been 7 years since I first tried to bring her
legally, and there we were, both my mother and I, with broken dreams and and fears of being
separated once again. The emigration
officer, however, REFUSED entry to Margarita, telling her that nothing had
changed since her last interview, and that, since she was still legally
married, she needed to be sponsored by her husband. We were again crushed, and had to come back
without her.

Over the next year, she went through the emotionally painful
process of divorce so that the “permission” of her husband would no longer be
an issue.

But we were troubled by the verdict. We had done everything by the book, and still
Margarita was left back in Mexico while her entire family grew up without her.  Once again, however, we didn’t
get anything in writing from the emigration officer (our mistake).  So we
wrote to the immigration office in Jurez, and they sent a copy of the paperwork.  Subsequently, we fortuitously got in contact with a retiree from the American
consulate on the border who agreed to review our case.

He asked for copies of all the documents, and
concluded that Margarita’s penalty for overstaying her VISA had never been three
years, but TEN, and that she should have gotten an official document from emigration
stating that. We asked Margarita for that
letter, but she denies ever receiving it.

And so now we must wait for three more years until the 10 year
period is up. And even then, we’re not
sure what will happen. Margarita is
aging, and her mental and physical health are a concern for us, as she is very
depressed and lonely and Mexico.

At this point, we are exasperated and weary, and our only
avenue is to appeal to you, and to our governor. We know you are busy, and we represent only
one case among thousands like us.  I’m
asking you in behalf of my entire family, if there’s anything you can do to
help us expedite Margarita’s entry to the USA, we would be grateful.

Four children, ten growing grandchildren, and one more on
the way would forever be grateful.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my rather
lengthy letter. I await for your kind