My sister, Kristen, is legally married and has three young children with my brother-in-law, Antonio Elias, but has been separated from them due to a 5-year ban for missing a court date he was unaware of. Kristen is dealing with depression and is financially struggling because she is trying to raise the girls without their loving father.
This is my sister's story:
"I desperately need your help to reunite my family that has been torn apart by a broken immigration system. Many families suffer extreme hardships while they seek to re-adjust their spouse's legal status but my family has fallen through the cracks into a category that Congress has seemed to have forgotten about with no hope of reuniting my three little daughters, my husband and I for at least another 3 years, precious years, that I am sure you as parents can understand.
I met my husband while serving in the Peace Corps in El Salvador in 2005. When I became pregnant with our first daughter my husband, being young and foolish, made a rash decision to cross into the United States to be with me as fast as he could instead of waiting for me to petition legal-paperwork for him. My husband entered the United States illegally through Mexico in June 2006 with a group of men that were looking for work; he was entering to be with me. They were picked up, fingerprinted and then let go and told that a letter with a court date would be sent to them. The border patrol used the same address for all of the men since my husband didn't know my exact address until he later called me from Texas. He then came to live with me in Maryland and my daughter was born in September 2006.
We tried to straighten out our lives but realized after talking with many lawyers that to get a permanent residency he would have to return to El Salvador.
Unbeknownst to us and to what has become our greatest sadness, a court date had been held in August 2006 in Texas and because of this he is subject to 5 years outside of the country before he is eligible to reapply for residency. This means that since he left in Feb. 2009 he is not eligible to file paperwork (a waiver that is eligible to all other families that have had spouses illegally present in the country) until Feb. 2014 under the law INA 212a6b.
I moved our entire family to El Salvador with him in 2009 and tried making it work down there for two years. But there was a lack of work available for myself and my husband to support us, a lack of adequate education for my daughters, a poor healthcare system and most alarming - the fact that El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the Central America. In fact, the Peace Corps, with which I originally was introduced to the country through, has since pulled out of that country because it has been classified as too dangerous. My daughters, Dorothy (6 years old), Josephine (2 years old) and Tessa Jean (1 years old) have not seen their father in over a year. I work full time as a web developer in Maryland but am on Medical Assistance and WIC checks because I cannot afford to be a single parent (my husband is unable to send money because he cannot find regular and consistent work). We also filed a waiver and paid over $1,000 in fines to the U.S. embassy in El Salvador. The embassy took 16 months to review our case and when they did they said we had never been eligible to file but that they would not refund our money and that we will have to re-file the waiver and the money again in Feb. 2014 and then wait for another decision to be made.
While other families that are readjusting status because of illegal presence are separated for a few months, my family is suffering for years when the court date that he missed was for just that - illegal presence. When a U.S. citizen misses a court hearing in the U.S. an arrest warrant is put out so that they can be brought before the judge, they aren't put in jail for missing the actual hearing. My husband, who accidently missed his court hearing because he didn't understand what was being told to him at the time, never received the court letter to appear and was rushing to be by my side during a complicated pregnancy, is serving 5 years away from his family... while the national average for U.S. citizens that have been convicted of heinous crimes such as sexual assaults, robberies and other violent crimes serve an average of 3.5 years in jail.
We cannot reopen the case in Texas because he has already left the country. We literally have nowhere to turn to bring our family back together again in a timely manner. Emotionally and financially my children and I are a mess without my husband - who is a kind and hardworking family man.
I realize that you might say your hands are tied because it is an Immigration and Naturalization law. Or you might not want to do something controversial such as helping a family that had a member of it here illegally at one point so that you can get re-elected again by your constituents. But this is a family, an American family with suffering children and a suffering wife and the suffering is due to broken American laws that just do not make sense for our well-being.
Please put away the party politics and help reunite us. We have hit a dead-end with our attempts to correct our current suffering and there must be something that you can do, a pardon that can be granted, to lift this burden. Please review our case and bring our family back together again." -Kristen Martin Garcia
There is nothing more I can tell you about my sister's case, as she has laid out all the facts, but I do hope to stress the importance of responding to this situation. For simplicity, I’ll make a bullet point list:
- Kristen is a USA citizen who has three young (American) daughters who are deprived of their father, Antonio Elias Garcia, due to a ban for making a mistake years ago, which was solely committed out of love and desperation to be with his family.
- After volunteering with the US government through the Peace Corps and giving so much of her education/time/commitment, Kristen is not receiving aid from her government in her time of need.
- Dorothy Garcia, the oldest daughter of Kristen and Antonio Elias, was born with a serious health condition, a Cleft Palate, which has left her with continuous medical care and speech therapy.
- My sister, Kristen, is dealing with serious depression due to several factors:
* She is financially supporting three children without assistance from their father (who is being denied the ability to help by the US government.)
* Kristen is emotionally damaged because her husband is separated from her by great distance and they have no guarantee they will ever be together.
- Kristen is doing everything possible to reunite her family. She has previously applied for a Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (but was denied). She tried living in El Salvador with her husband (but financially/physically and medically (Dorothy) could not survive). She attempted finding employment in Canada so she could be sponsored to work while Antonio Elias could be admitted on a spousal visa (but she could not find employment)… All the while, she is working full time and raising her three little girls.
- My nieces are currently visiting their father for two month this summer so that they can try to reconnect the vital fatherly bond they have lost. They are consequently in a gravely dangerous country, El Salvador (where even the Peace Corps does not go anymore due to violence), and spending two months without their mother (who needs to continue working to earn money for their family).
Antonio Elias Garcia is a wonderful brother-in-law to me; one that I have been fortunate enough to get to know. My family’s desire for Antonio Elias’ permission approval to reunite with his American family is not asking too much. Our country grants waivers/exceptions for much more difficult situations. We, as a nation of immigrants ourselves, say we are a country that “establishes justice”. A five-year ban on a father who is separated from his family of three young children and a loving wife- (all of whom physically/mentally/ and emotionally need him)- is not justice. It is a gross injustice that is causing more damage than is reversible.
You may say think, ‘why don’t they just wait out the ban… it’s only two more years’. Well it would be two years until they could re-apply and the paperwork takes at least a year or more to process. So why not wait out three more years? …Because that’s three years of missed first steps for Tessa Jean (the youngest). It’s three missed years of snuggling before putting Josephine (the middle) to bed and it’s three missed years of heading off to elementary school with no daddy to pick Dorothy (the oldest) up afterschool. My nieces don’t know the scent of their father, the look of his eyes. They are not asking for a miracle? They are pleading for a signature on a piece of paper allowing their daddy to live with them.
My sister and her family have exhausted the ‘follow the legal system’ advice they get from people who are unable to see how devastating this situation actually is. I am writting this to save my sister so please sign our petition to allow Antonio Elias to reunite with his wife and daughters.