By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR
In this week’s edition of “Hanging in the Balance,” we meet a young couple whose dreams of living happily ever after were turned upside down because of the United States’ dysfunctional immigration laws.
As reported by Fusion, Rachel Custodio and her husband Paulo are just one of more than one million mixed-status couples where one is a citizen or permanent resident and one is an aspiring American. If one faces deportation, his or her significant other must face the impossible choice our current immigration system forces upon thousands of families: should the permanent resident leave the United States and follow his or her deported spouse, or stay behind and attempt to maintain a relationship from half a world away?
Four years ago, Rachel, a U.S. citizen, packed up her life in Boston and took a one-way flight to Brazil. She couldn’t speak Portuguese. She wasn’t traveling to a new job. As so many other husbands and wives have done, Rachel was leaving the United States for the first time to be with her deported husband.
Rachel and Paulo met in Boston back in 2005 and were married by 2009. She knew that Paulo lacked immigration status since he had entered the country by crossing from Mexico into Texas in 2002. So, shortly after marrying, the newlyweds hired a lawyer to get Paulo right with the law.
One day, as the couple was going through their I-130 interview at a federal office in Boston, their world began to crumble. There in the interview room, Rachael and Paulo learned that Paulo had an outstanding deportation order. He had no criminal record, but somewhere along the line—as he sought a driver’s license or another document that he needed for his everyday life—a judge had served Paolo deportation orders, orders that he never received. After giving the few possessions he was holding to his wife, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer took Paulo away to a detention center.
Though Rachel gathered friends, family, and Paulo’s coworkers to ask immigration officials to grant Paolo released supervision, the authorities deemed him ineligible for parole. After two difficult months in a detention center, Paolo was deported to Brazil.
Rachel worried about the effect separation would have on their marriage. She chose to move to Brazil and remains there today, despite her continued struggles with learning Portuguese, separation from her parents, and occasional feelings of isolation in her new home.
As a country, we have a commitment to strengthening families, and in the absence of action from Congress, the president has no choice but to act to keep families together. President Obama has the legitimate authority to fix elements of the outdated immigration system. He should provide relief from deportation to those who have strong ties to our country and are woven into our communities.
Too many American citizens are having their families torn apart without hope for a better future.