Love Unites Them, La Migra Separates Them

El Observador, News Report, Rosario Vital Posted: Nov 29, 2006

Traducción al español

SAN JOSE – Immigration laws don’t just affect the undocumented; they also affect the thousands of U.S. citizens that fall in love with, marry, and raise a family with immigrants. In the immigration marches held earlier this year, the demonstrators included many U.S. citizens who faced their own difficulties: they’d fallen in love with people without concern for their legal status – and now their families were suffering the consequences.

family splitDavid Guard participated in the May 1 “mega march,” carrying a sign that read, "Bring my family home! Eliminate the 10-year-ban!"

Guard says he fell in love with a Mexican woman who worked at his company. Shortly after beginning their relationship, they had their first child. They then decided to marry. Karina, his wife-to-be, returned to Mexico to organize their wedding. While she was out of the country, the young couple began the immigration process, but Karina was prohibited from entering this country for a period of 10 years. That's when the family's journey began. Guard, who works for CISCO Systems, has a flexible schedule that allows him to visit his family in Mexico.

“We have asked our Congressmen to help us - not only us, but the thousands of couples who have been affected by this problem,” says Guard. “The office of immigration tries to justify itself by saying it does this for national security,” he continues. “What security are they giving this country if they treat citizens like me unfairly? My wife is not a terrorist and immigration laws are destroying the families of their own citizens,” he adds emphatically.

In 1984, Brenda Friedrich married Ismael Sanfaz, a Bolivian citizen. Together they had a daughter who is now 17 years old. Sanfaz obtained legal residency before they got divorced in 1996. Years later, they reconciled and remarried. By this time, Sanfaz had lost his green card and had to reapply for one. One year later, immigration authorities told them that their marriage was not valid and Sanfaz was deported with instructions that he could not re-enter the United States. Sanfaz has not seen his family since.

Since her husband was deported, Friedrich says, she has had to support herself, her parents, her daughter and her sister.

“I’ve spent thousands of dollars and have been in this process for five years and we can’t find a solution,” says Friedrich, who lives in the Northern California city of Campbell. “We’ve begun the (immigration) process again, and now they say we have to wait for our daughter to turn 18 so she can apply to bring him back (to the United States),” she adds.

“The immigration offices are a big secret, and you never know what they are going to do or say,” she says. “They are inefficient and unjust towards many families that are waiting for some good news.”

When you fall in love, you don’t ask your partner for his or her papers. This was the case with Julissa Chavez, a U.S. citizen, and her Mexican husband Alejandro Garcia. The couple fell in love and decided to get married in 2004. Chavez, who is bilingual, loves her job: she teaches children with special needs in San Francisco. Her skills have assured her a position in her workplace for years to come. This September, her husband had to go to the Mexican border city of Juarez to renew his immigration status. He was unable to re-enter the country and has remained in Mexico since then, leaving Chavez to take care of their three-year-old daughter.

Chavez says immigration laws separate families and are discriminatory. “With the ‘terrorism’ excuse, it is easy to blame Latinos,” she says. “The government is acting out of paranoia in this situation,” she adds.

The non-profit national organization American Families United is one of the groups that is helping U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants. The organization is now in talks with congressmen and assemblymen to help resolve this issue that affects children, husbands and wives.

"The problem of families being separated by our immigration laws is very tragic,” says immigration lawyer Christopher Kerosky. “Our country's immigration policies always caused some examples of family separation, but the situation has gotten much worse in the last 10 years due to several changes in the immigration laws intended to discourage illegal immigration.”

One of Kerosky’s clients is married to an American citizen and has two children, both U.S. citizens. The family was forced to move to Asia and live there for 10 years because the woman overstayed her visa. “The situation has ripped apart their family, caused them to lose their careers here and kept their parents in the U.S. from seeing their grandchildren,” says Kerosky. “There are thousands of such cases. What needs to happen is some sensible reform of those punitive rules that keep families apart. Maybe now with the new Congress,” he adds, “there is some hope that this will happen.”

Related Stories:

Snapshots of the National Immigrant Rights Movement

It’s Not Just About Legalization, Due Process Is Also at Stake

Will Congress Make the Plight of Divided Families Better or Worse?

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User Comments

ismail on Jan 28, 2007 at 01:03:04 said:

the world is a huge place.if the usa immgration wants to contiue thire ignorancy ,,pepole you cant win playing by thire dumb ruls..
enter illgaly and be with your loved one.or find another place.
or just look for another man or woman
tired of wating

Jolanda Perez on Nov 30, 2006 at 01:47:24 said:

I am an immigrant, a totally legal permanent resident, and I just wanted to emphatically agree that DHLS is arbitrarily and deliberately deporting legal immigrants and in some instances even American born citizens.
Most American born citizens do not realize that legality for us immigrants is an ever shifting situation with this flawed and innately racist immigration documentation system, it is dependent ultimately on current political trends and the whims of frustrated undertrained beurocrats.

My family has recently discovered this the hard way. After being in this country for over twenty years, my father recently remarried a wonderful woman from our home country, Brazil. Mind you my parents are both naturalized citizens some years, they are both hardworking Americans who have never taken a hand out from the government, and have made countless sacrifices to help improve the lives of their children. We have jumped through all the INS hoops; humiliating interviews with agents that obviously despised us, the unwanted personal scrutiny of an obviously hostile government, not to mention the enormous cost of naturalization. We have endured many deliberate attempts to get us to give up the process; it would be convenient for the government to deport us to compensate for their total inability to protect Americans from terrorism. This is political sleight of hand; let's forget no one knows where Osama Bin Laden is, let's forget about the total lack of port security, let's forget about the 800 lb gorilla in the room that's pissing EVERYONE off, Iraq. Instead let us persecute the legal law abiding residents and citizens of this country who are foriegn born!

We thought we were safe; we are all citizens or permanent residents on the way to citenzenship, all, that is, except for my step-mother.
Sometime after marrying my father (a US citizen), while she was 7 months pregnant my stepmother recieved notice from the Dept. of Homeland Security that she was to return to Rio dee Janeiro for her final interview to obtain her green card. She and my father explained that they were unable to go, as no airline would allow a woman so pregnant to travel so far. So they contacted the correct offices and requested a new appointment when the baby would be old enough to travel.
So she and my father when to the DHLS office and inquired as to the appropriate paperwork, were duly informed and this November they left with my 5 mo. old little sister (an American born citizen!) to presumably finalize my stepmom's greencard. How wrong they were.

After paying a great deal of money for their airfair and hotel arrangements (we have no family in Rio to accomodate us)they went to their interview at the Brazilian consulate. There, they were told that my stepmom could not be admitted for re-entry into the United States because her green card had expired for more than a year, and that meant she could not re-enter under any condition for another ten years. My father expressed astonishment and disbelief; they had just been to the DHLS and they were given the impression that she was fine in her legal standing and current in her documentation. However, the official in Rio contested that after her last visitor's visa expired, even though she had since married a US citizen there was a paper she needed to provide DHLS in order to extend her stay; there was never any mention of this made by DHLS, and now she is stuck in a third world country with my 5 mo. old sister, whose immunizations were begun here, but are not yet complete. Did I mention my little sister is an AMERICAN BORN CITIZEN? But, because his wife is stranded in Brazil and my father's extended family is also there, and the rest of the family are on the other side of the country, there is NO WAY my father can bring my little sister back either; not without a mother to care for her. Here is a prime example of two collosal shortcomings of the so-called "security" driven, racially motivated immigration system; DHLS deliberately lured my stepmother out of the country, under false pretense, to deny her re-entry(and very conveniently save the cost of deporting her; my father paid her airfair,) but not only that, the government has subsequently deported an innocent American INFANT because there are no childcare options open to my father in his current situation. As a result, my father is alone and dealing with depression, fighting a legal battle of insurmountable odds, while my newborn sister, who I haven't even had an opportunity to meet, is at risk for Cholera, Chickenpox, Cowpox, Measles, Dysentery, malnutrition, poverty, murder.... not to mention she is living in a third world country with substandard education and housing, missing every opportunity that she is entitled her for the next ten years.
Did I mention?
She IS an American citizen.




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