Saturday, August 27, 2016
Just one of many stories
Immigration laws as currently constituted have created a situation that divides families in unnecessarily cruel fashion.
“I understand that I’m unauthorized and I know I did something wrong that went against U.S. law, but I’m not a criminal,” she said. “I haven’t committed any serious offenses such as robbery, murder or prostitution.”Her period of banishment is almost over, but Emma Sanchez is just one of many families that that are torn apart by laws that make no provision for families.
Sanchez entered the United States illegally in 2000. Before that, she had attempted to illegally come through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, but agents turned her away.
She met Paulsen in Vista shortly after arriving. He noticed her at the bus stop in front of the body shop where he worked as a mechanic. Paulsen didn’t know a word of Spanish at the time, and the two used an acquaintance as an interpreter. The couple married just one month after they met, in a civil ceremony in Vista.
Sanchez was filing paperwork for legalization in 2006 when she was summoned out of the country, to an appointment with immigration authorities at the U.S. Consulate in Cuidad Juarez. Authorities told her she would be prohibited from returning home to Vista for 10 years, despite the fact that Paulsen, 51, is a U.S. citizen and a Marine veteran.
Immigration law at the time stipulated that applicants seeking legal status must return to their country of origin. But once an applicant who had been living in the United States without permission left the country, they were automatically barred from re-entering for at least three years, sometimes for up to a decade.
“My whole world came crashing down.… You can’t believe that in one minute they’re destroying your life, your family,” Sanchez said in Spanish from her home in Tijuana. She told her husband they should divorce.
“I tell people, ‘I’ve got to go see my wife, she lives in another country.’ It’s hard,” Paulsen said. “I’d like to one day come home and say, ‘Honey, what’s for dinner?’ I want to do that one day.”
Typically, a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident can petition for his spouse to receive a green card or permanent residence. Children over age 21 can petition on a parent’s behalf, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Sanchez, banned from the U.S. for 10 years, is eligible to apply for re-entry.
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