My name is Edgar Falcon. I am a US Citizen that lives in El Paso Texas. Although I have been married for over 3 years, each night I sleep in a different country than my wife.
My wife, Maricruz Valtierra Zuniga was brought as a teenager to the United States of America by her older sister, when she was only 14 years old. My wife and her sisters were detained by U.S Immigration. She now has a life time ban due to a law that was passed by U.S. Congress in 1996. Though her sister answered all of the border official’s questions since my wife was a minor and did not speak English, Maricruz was later subjected to the section of the 1996 law called False Claim to U.S. Citizenship. This law states that anyone who makes a false claim as a child, teenager or as an adult is banned from entering the United States of America FOREVER. Since implemented, this law has affected thousands of U.S. Citizens and their families and has resulted in forcing many U.S. citizens to have to leave their country and live in Mexico or other parts of the world. Unfortunately, that is my case. And so, Maricruz, the love of my life, and I must sleep in different countries.
I currently live what my parents call a “double life” on both sides of the border due to this law, spending hours traveling between EL Paso Texas to CD Juarez Chihuahua MX to keep my family intact. I cross the U.S Mexican border as many times per week as I can, but often I have to make the tough decision between staying in the U.S and leaving my wife behind because I must work to support us in El Paso. I never imagined this is what my life would be like when Maricuz and I got married on August 27, 2013 at the EL Paso de Norte Bridge. At our wedding, U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke stood with us as a witness and showed his support along with family member and friends. I had such high hopes of building our life together in the U.S., the country where I was born and that I love as much as much as I love Maricruz. Since then unfortunately, I have attempted numerous times to legally adjust my wife’s status, and been denied that right as a result of the lifetime bar created by this 1996 law.
Democratic U.S Congressmen Beto O’Rourke and Republican Congressmen Steve Pearce are trying to help US Citizen spouses like me, by introducing a bill that is called the American Families United Act. It is named after the organization, American Families United that represents many US citizen spouses all over the country as well as many who are living in exile, outside the U.S. to keep their families together. There are lots of similar couples who must sleep and live in different countries and not all are able to make a border straddling life feasible. Some can only travel to see their spouse a few times a year for economic reasons. Some have been separated for years fighting or waiting for changes to our broken immigration system. Sadly, there are also U.S. citizens I know whose marriages were destroyed by the horrible stress of this prolonged separation. It is wrong to force people to go through that. It wrong to force someone to choose between the person they love and the country they love.
So, Maricruz and I thank Congressmen Steve Pearce and Beto O’Rourke for bravely standing up for families like us. And for helping us to believe that our dreams: to sleep together snuggled side by side every single night, in one country, will someday be possible.
My name is Nicholas Martin. I work for Heritage Plastics, a small company in Sylacauga, Alabama, and I am a U.S. Citizen. I met my wife Cristina here in Sylacauga, in 2005, at a local restaurant. We began dating and in 2008 eventually were married. She is the guiding light in my life that makes me want to be a better person and her approval is all that matters to me. She knows and understands me better than anyone else. I love her. She is my soulmate.
Our daughter, Celindia, was born in 2007 with severe infantile glaucoma, cataracts, severe to moderate inner ear damage, a cleft pallet, and genetic abnormalities that have never been seen before. To make a long story short, she was born blind and deaf with a hole in her mouth and a gene that could mutate into who knows what, as her life progresses. She has had 12 individual surgeries in the short time she has been on this earth. Five on her eyes, six on her ears, one in her mouth and more in the future are a certainty. Thanks to her wonderful doctors, my daughter has been given the ability to see, but not well. Her vision is 20/200 in her right eye and 20/400 in her left. If you were to hold a finger in front of one eye and blur out everything else, you could get an idea of her visual capabilities. She will always be legally blind and her ophthalmologists are ever watchful. She saw a plastic surgeon who repaired the hole in her mouth, but the damage caused by it, to her ears, is irreversible. She has severe to moderate hearing loss and wears hearing aides. They are always the first thing she asks for when she wakes up in the morning.
We began the process of applying for Cristina’s immigrant visa in 2010. The day we went to her visa interview was when our world came crashing down on us. Cristina received a lifetime bar for making a false claim to U.S. citizenship with no opportunity for a waiver. My wife made a mistake. But, I don’t think that mistake constitutes my disabled daughter having to grow up without her mother at her side. Cristina is a good person. She’s never hurt anybody. She just made one mistake. Our daughter is disabled. She needs her doctors here in the U.S. but, she needs her mother from Mexico as well.
There is a lack of attention that is being paid to us, as U.S. citizens, that are suffering from this same issue and whose families are already out of the country and have been ripped apart by it. I feel like our rights a US Citizens have been taken away. Our rights for our case to be heard in front of a judge and to ensure Due Process. WE, as U.S. citizens, should be treated as a priority.
My name is Margot Bruemmer. I came to Veracruz, Mexico on September 30, 2005 to join my husband Osmark who had three months earlier been given a 10 year bar from the United States. I hated the idea of moving to Mexico—I have a Master’s Degree and was working as an Instructor at a college. My career was just beginning to take off. But I wanted to keep my marriage intact and stand by Osmark’s side. When I got here, I had a terrible time adjusting to life in rural Mexico—everything was different and I barely spoke the language! In 2008 my first daughter was born here. My doctor ignored all of my wishes to have a natural birth and did a C-Section! In 2011 and 2015 my other daughters were born also in Mexico. These experiences made me realize how much I was missing out on by being in a developing country away from the high quality medical care I would have received in the U.S. My children eventually began going to schools here and again I was devastated that they were missing out on their U.S. education, not to mention the fact that we live in a dangerous area with daily kidnappings and murders.
In 2015, after we complied with the 10 year bar, we went for a new interview in Ciudad Juarez and Osmark’s visa was denied again, only this time they told him that he was barred for life for making a false claim to citizenship in 1998. We hired an immigration lawyer who contested the facts of the false claim, but our case was denied. We sent it to appeal with the AAO and it was denied again.
Now in 2017 we are still here in Mexico with no hope of ever going back. We’re trying to make a normal life here, but I am sick and anxious everyday over the thought that my children and I—all U.S. citizens—can’t go back. Waiting out the 10 years was in vain. Paying thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to USCIS and immigration attorneys was in vain. Prayers were in vain. The positive thoughts from everyone and everyone over the years were in vain. Arguments about how we are four U.S. citizens being denied our home and our privileges as citizens of the United States were in vain. Begging and pleading by phone, email, and in person with senators and congressmen was in vain. Spending years lobbying as a political activist for the cause was in vain. It was all in vain. The system is broken, unfair, and these laws need to change.
My name is Alex, and I am a Veteran of the United States Air Force. My wife Yuritzi is banned from the US for life because of an immigration infraction she made as a young woman back in Jan 2001, nine years before we were married. I served as an instructor pilot at a U.S. Air Force Base in Texas training young USAF pilots. I am an Air Force Veteran who served as a decorated pilot in areas like Somalia, Bolivia, Colombia and Iraq.
Ironically, as my wife is a US military dependent, Yuritzi has the privilege and rights to walk onto any US military base around the world, but she cannot legally enter this country which I love and serve and which she loves and serves -- The United States.
Keeping me and my family 700 miles apart caused us great hardship and pain. Every day that passed I watched my baby daughter grow up via Skype from my US Air Force Base in Texas rather than having her by my side. I worried about my family’s safety. With all the recent wave of murders and kidnappings in Mexico, my stress grew and I longed to be back together with my family and have her here by my side in the US.
By her retracting her mistaken statement, Yuritzi became legally eligible for reconsideration by what is known in 9 FAM as Timely Retraction, but the US State Department refused to recognize this action in their own Visa adjudication manuals that would remove the lifetime bar and allow her to reapply for a Visa once again via the still more cumbersome and unpredictable 601 waiver process. This has been a difficult years long struggle.
Currently we moved to the Middle East. I left my job training USAF pilots in Texas which I loved doing and didn't want to have to leave and now moved to the the U.A.E. with a US govt contract training international pilots. I miss being in the US, but I had to be with my wife and baby daughter that I missed being with for over two years while I was in the states working with the USAF. We are finally together, but so far from home. I miss my parents who are getting older in Florida and my three other daughters who are studying and working and going to college in Texas.
Please join me in asking Congress to show the same fairness and loyalty I have shown the US in my more than 25 years of service. Ask them to please sponsor and pass the AFU Act.
Thank you so much. God bless you all and God bless The United States of America.
This is my family. We are the result of generations of love between people of different cultures. Our children have Mexican, Guatemalan, Italian-American, Spanish, German-American, Irish-American and Polish-American roots.
Unfortunately, the American part of our heritage is strained by the fact that my husband Carlos has been banned for life from entering the US as a result of immigration laws passed in 1996. He was brought, unauthorized, as a young person to the US, finished high school, went to college, had a bright future, but it was the specific way that he was brought into the country that activated the lifetime ban with no option for a waiver under INA 212a6cii, the obscure section of the law that affects my family every day.
Shortly after our wedding nearly ten years ago, he and I chose to leave the US and pursue life abroad without the shackles of being "undocumented”. Meanwhile we have fought to find justice for our family, through visa petitions, waivers, and appeals. Thus far we have been unsuccessful. He can enter any country but the US, so we have traveled through Europe, attempted and failed at life in Mexico, and finally settled with our children in South Korea, where we can live in peace despite considerable difficulty every day that we wouldn’t experience if we were in our home country.
We will spend most of our children’s lives raising them far from the grandparents and family members who wish so badly to have them nearby. We will live with fewer options for forward movement, and continue to survive year-to-year here. But we hold out hope that those who seek justice, like the members of this group, will continue to speak on behalf of families like ours, even as new leadership pushes us further away.
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