One of the most heartbreaking moments I have had in my entire life was while listening to Miguel, an eight-year-old whose father is an undocumented Mexican stranded in Mexico. “I want my daddy back,” Miguel said while he sniffled in front of my desk. His mother, Irene, sat silently next to him, her eyes struck by the horrible realization that her husband would not be coming back to the United States for the next 10 years.
The price this U.S. family is paying for wanting to legalize the status of Jose, a 30-year-old man who is Irene’s husband and the father of three, ages two, five and eight, is too much to bear. The real victims are the members of this family, all U.S. citizens who will likely become dependent on the government because Irene can’t make ends meet with her salary as a receptionist. Besides pushing her household under the poverty line, with just one parent, the kids aren’t properly disciplined or supervised. A potentially successful story has turned into a nightmare.
It doesn’t take a lot of common sense to figure out that current U.S. immigration laws have lost their long-standing wisdom by forcing Jose, the main bread winner, to leave the U.S. in order to get his permanent residence. He has to be interviewed at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city beleaguered by a mounting drug cartel-related death toll that makes it the most dangerous city of Mexico. At his interview he is told that he hasn’t overcome a 10-year penalty for entering the U.S. illegally. He’s stuck in Mexico for a decade.
The only solution is a humanitarian law called “245(i)” which would allow him to stay in the U.S. and get processed by paying a fine of $1,000, the penalty for entering illegally to the U.S. This law has been available off and on since 1994. The last time it came back was April 30, 2001. But then 9/11 struck and any efforts to re-activate it have met with arguments that it might benefit a possible terrorist.
The benefits of 245(i), however, can’t be ignored. In Irene and Jose’s case, this law would keep the family together by allowing Jose to get his interview inside the U.S. The kids would keep their daddy. Irene would keep her husband. The government would not have to support this family. Above all, by getting processed, the government would know Jose’s bona fides. He’s someone easy to track down because he has legal papers.
Bring back 245(i) because it’s more important to protect our families. U.S. citizens like Irene and her children should not be treated like this. They have rights too.