'My kids have suffered enough': US-born children in danger of losing parents with visas pending
June 18, 2018 06:36 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Albuquerque family says it can relate to the situation unfolding on the U.S.-Mexico border that has taken up residency at the forefront of the national conversation in recent days.
At one moment, a wife and mother of two was checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The next, she was back in Mexico.
Her husband said he's scared he could be next, leaving behind two U.S.-born children.
Exslander Duarte is from Guatemala; his wife from Mexico. Together they’ve created a life and started a family in the United States – specifically Albuquerque.
“My mom brought me to give me a better life, better education, and that's the same thing I want for my kids,” Duarte said at a rally on Monday.
His American dream was seemingly safe for a while. Though not bearing legal citizen status, he and his wife were the victims of a violent crime in the US – those victims are supposed to be protected under federal law.
Illegal citizens who cooperate with law enforcement can apply for a U-visa to grant them stay. The Duartes did just that.
“I’ve had two other clients of mine with minor children born in the United States with U-visas pending removed from the United States, despite the pending U-visa and this memo that states the contrary,” said Rebecca Kitson, an immigration attorney with Rebecca Kitson Law.
The Duartes' visas have been pending for years. The reason: a large backlog, Kitson says. There are more than 200,000 immigrants on the waiting list, with a yearly approval allotment of 10,000.
Now the wait is putting those people at risk.
“My kids have suffered enough already by ICE deporting their mother right before Mother’s Day,” Duarte said.
His wife, awaiting that U-visa, was taken from her husband and two kids after checking in with ICE agents. Now Duarte worries he could be next.
“I think it's leading to impossible choices for parents and for immigrant families,” Kitson said. “A lot of time these are life or death choice being made. I always say the smallest shoulders carry the heaviest weight."
Kitson said because the U-visa is pending and hasn't been granted, that gives immigration enforcement the discretion when it comes to removal.
Duarte checked in with immigration officials on Monday and says his next check-in is scheduled for next January.
Updated: June 18, 2018 06:36 PM
Created: June 18, 2018 05:51 PM
Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved