- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Florida Family Living an Immigration Nightmare

Pacific Citizen, News feature, Caroline Aoyagi-Stom Posted: Jun 23, 2007

Editor's Note: Keith Campbell's wife Akiko made a simple error in her immigration paperwork. Now Akiko and their two kids are in Japan, prevented from returning to the U.S. for a decade.

At 8 p.m. every night for the past five months Keith Campbell, 47, has looked forward to spending time with his wife Akiko and their two young sons Leo and Micah, ages five and 21 months, respectively. But instead of sharing these moments in their home in Bradenton, Florida, Keith uses his Web-cam to talk with his loved ones who are currently living thousands of miles away in Nagano, Japan.

It's far from an ideal situation and is not of their choosing. But according to the U.S. government, Akiko, 41, is no longer welcome in the country where she has made her home for the past nine years - all due to an innocent error in her fiance visa paperwork.

disappeared family florida japanese"I get emotional at the weirdest times. The weirdest things will set me off," said Keith, a successful small business owner, in an interview with the Pacific Citizen. "I stay really busy ... I have faith. But my place is with my family."

Akiko is accused of committing deception and fraud against the U.S. government because she got married before her fiance visa had been processed. And after years of appeals and motions to try to rectify the situation - including two failed greencard interviews - Akiko is virtually in "exile" in her native country along with their two U.S.-born sons.

"It is devastating. We all miss Keith so bad," said Akiko, in an e-mail from Nagano. "We have never lived separately since we married. And it has been already five months since we left."
Now the only option for the Campbells is to get approval for a hardship waiver for Akiko, something the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has yet to make a ruling on.

So Keith and Akiko are taking matters into their own hands. In February they launched an aggressive public relations campaign, including the BringAkikoHome.com Web site. They have called politicians, printed up bumper stickers and made sure media outlets tell their story.

"We've been married for nine years, we have kids. There's no doubt that we're a legitimate marriage," said Keith. "We say that family is the backbone of this country but the government is breaking up my family over nothing."

An Innocent Mistake

Keith was in Tokyo, Japan on a business trip when he met Akiko at a local hangout in the Roppongi District. After several months of courtship the two decided to get married and applied for a fiance visa.

Told by the local U.S. embassy in Japan that the visa would take about three to four months, Keith and Akiko planned their 1998 dream wedding in Hawaii, even allowing for an extra month. But with the wedding date fast approaching and still no visa, they asked the local U.S. embassy for advice.

According to Keith, he and Akiko were told to go ahead with the wedding and simply adjust Akiko's status from a fiance visa to a marriage visa after she entered the U.S. That piece of advice has led to nine years of immigration nightmares and ultimately got Akiko kicked out of the country.

"We did what the government told us to do. Their timeline was wrong," said Keith. "Our initial intent was to get married and our intent is to stay married. There's no fraud on [Akiko's] side."

But after countless hours, three attorneys, and over $10,000 the Campbells' situation remains grim.

The couple thought they had finally gotten some good news when the local Tampa immigration office recently told them Akiko's visa petition had been approved. All she had to do was pick up the visa in Japan and re-enter the U.S. But at her visa interview in February, the Tokyo embassy told Akiko her visa application had been rejected and she could not re-enter the U.S. for 10 years.

"It was a Gestapo trick," said Keith, who accuses USCIS of knowingly deceiving his wife so she would return to Japan. "She left the country under the pretense that she could come back. She couldn't even pack up her things, she couldn't even say goodbye."

Now Akiko has been stripped of her Japanese passport and is living with their two sons in her parents' home in Nagano. Five-year-old Leo doesn't understand why his family is being separated and often asks his mom why they can't go home.

"Our older son ... Leo, is especially having a hard time. He loves his daddy. He misses home so much," said Akiko.

The Ongoing Immigration Debate

Akiko continued her successful career as a graphics designer when she and Keith moved to Bradenton. She soon made good friends and got involved in the local church. And in addition to their two younger sons, she helped raise Keith's oldest son Matthew, 19.

But now her life in America will have to be put on hold for 10 years if the U.S. government does not grant her a hardship waiver.

"I am native Japanese and lived here for 33 years until I got married to Keith. The house in Bradenton is our home now and is where we started our family. That is where my family belongs," said Akiko.

The current national debate on immigration reform often focuses on illegal immigration, usually from Mexico. But often lost in the debate are the stories of legal family immigration and the problems they too face in an immigration system that is often unforgiving.

"We focus on the illegal part of immigration but what about the two million families separated by immigration policy?" said Keith.

Paul Donnelly, a spokesperson for American Families United - a group that works to ensure American immigration laws protect families - believes the only option for the Campbells is a "legislative fix."

"Those married to American citizens should not be treated less equally," said Donnelly, who noted that current legislation looking at giving legal status to undocumented illegal immigrants does not provide legal status for those like Akiko.

"We want the same fairness applied to Akiko," he said. "What's the national interest in keeping Akiko and their kids in Japan?"

Calls to Chris Bentley, a spokesperson for USCIS, were not returned but in an interview with the Associated Press he said: "we're bound by making determinations based on what the law says."

An Uncertain Future

In March Keith visited Japan for four days, spending rare face-to-face time with his wife and two sons. In June he plans to return, this time for three weeks.

But the limited time he gets to spend with his two young sons is taking a toll.

With his oldest son Matthew, Keith admits he was often traveling for work and missed a lot of father-son time, especially when his son was very young. It's something he has long regretted and vowed would not happen with his two younger sons.

"I swore this wouldn't happen with these two kids. But now the government is doing this to us. I've already missed six months of their lives," he said.

And he's not prepared to spend any more time away from his family. Although he's hopeful the hardship waiver will be granted, he's willing to ultimately move to Japan to be with his wife and kids.

"The plan is to get her home but my place is with her," said Keith. "We'd rather live our lives in the open somewhere else then to live here illegally."

"I am not giving up," said Akiko. "I will fight until I get justice."

Disappeared stories

Immigration issues

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage