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Immigration: Family Unity Waiver Hardship Story

An immigration attorney with over 30 years of experience provides insights into the old Hardship Waiver process, comparing it to the new Family Unity Waiver

On January 3, 2013
the US Citizenship and Immigration Services published the final rule for the
new Family Unity Waiver. 

Undocumented persons
who entered the US without any visa at all (by crossing the border from Mexico
into the US, for example) are not eligible to have their personal interviews
for their “green cards” inside the U.S., even if they marry a US citizen.  They are required to return to the US
Consulate in their home country, for their personal interview and to hand in their Waiver packets in
person at the US Consulate
.  Because
of another clause in our Immigration laws, they are barred from returning to
the US for a period of 3 to 10 years, as a punishment for having been in the US
unlawfully.  The Waiver that they would
hand in at the US Consulate abroad was to allow them re-entry to the US,
without having to wait outside for up to 10 years.  This harsh provision has caused severe
hardship to US families. 

The following is inspired
by true stories under the old Immigration Waiver process.  Names and places have been changed.

A US citizen-wife, Mary,
married Edgar from Ecuador.  Neither Mary
nor Edgar had ever been married before. Edgar had one 6 year old US citizen
son, Harry, who was mentally challenged. When Mary and Edgar married, Harry came
to live with them.  Mary and Edgar had 3
more children together.

Mary suffered from
worsening diabetes complications, as a result of her pregnancies, including
loss of her eyesight.  Mary relied on
Edgar more and more to handle the shopping and cooking for the family, and the
household repairs.  He played with the
children on weekends when he wasn’t working, and their family was very happy
together.

But Edgar was not in
legal status.

Edgar did not enter the
US legally with a visa.  Edgar had crossed
the border on foot from Mexico into Arizona many years ago.   Mary didn’t know about any of this when she
fell in love with Edgar.  They met,
dated, and fell in love, and as time passed, Edgar shared his story with her.
Mary wanted to sponsor Edgar as her husband. 
They didn’t have a lot of money and decided to fill out the papers for
Immigration on their own and file them with the US Citizenship and
Naturalization Service.  The first set of
papers was approved in the US. but they learned that Edgar had to travel back
to the US Consulate in Ecuador for his personal interview for his permanent
resident status, or “green card”. 

Because he did not enter
the US with a visa, Edgar was not eligible to have his personal interview for
his green card inside the US.   Mary and Edgar
followed the rules of Immigration, and Edgar traveled down to our US Consulate
in Ecuador for his consular processing interview.

When Mary finally
contacted me, Edgar had been waiting for over 2 years in Ecuador.

Mary had to quit her job
because she couldn't afford child care anymore, she had to sell their house
because she couldn’t afford the mortgage or upkeep without her job, she lost
her medical insurance which was covered by her job, she could no longer drive
due to her failing eyesight, and she and the children moved in with her
parents.

Mary continued to care
for Edgar's mentally challenged son, Harry, who desperately missed his father
and didn't understand why his father had abandoned him.

My office drafted a
Waiver application for Edgar, sent the Wavier packet to him and explained the
process for filing the Waiver application at the US Consulate.  Edgar went to file the Waiver at the US
Consulate, which was very far from his home town in Ecuador.

The U.S. doesn’t send
all US citizens down to our consulates to work. 
Our US Consulates hire foreign nationals to work in some positions at
our consulates overseas.  These foreign
nationals are local Ecuadorians.  When
Edgar went to file his Waiver packet, he was told by a foreign national who was
employed at our US Consulate that he would never
be returning
to the US. The foreign national was not authorized to say that
to Edgar, did not review his Waiver packet and had no ability to make any decisions regarding Waiver packets
or any other US immigration matters.

In fact, Edgar had an excellent Waiver packet based on severe and
exceptionally unusual hardship to his US citizen-wife, Mary, who was suffering
greatly back in the US.

But Edgar believed the
foreign national who took his Waiver packet for filing because Edgar thought this was a person of authority. 

Edgar went into a deep
despair, left the US Consulate, and committed suicide.

This story is an example
of the old process under which families were separated for extended periods of
time, while they waited for their Waivers to be processed overseas. Many
families received conflicting information from one US Consulate to
another.  The US Consulate in Moscow
might decide a Waiver application packet very differently than a US Consulate
in Lima, Peru or Kingston, Jamaica.

This new process finally
allows us to file the Waivers inside the
US
, and obtain approvals, before the immigrant ever leaves the US.  Although each Waiver has a different set of
facts, there can now be universal standards that can be applied to each
decision.  The Waiver will be
pre-approved inside the US.

This means that when the
immigrant leaves the US for the consular processing interview, he could be
returning in just a few short weeks!

Next week:  Criteria
for getting a new Family Unity Waiver approved.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

bordwithbs January 19, 2013 at 01:27 PM
How the process failed families is a shameful story that has little if any justification. This country has flourished when we follow an enlightened immigration policy. What has developed is a paranoid,sometimes racist and poorly thought out and even more poorly executed set of byzantine rules and regulations. Perhaps the changes will be well thought out and used to allow immigranting families to function in a healthy manner while ensuring that immigrants are vetted in a fair and honest way.

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