Jesse’s Future

May 06, 2015

Ann Naffier, one of our staff attorneys for Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors, writes about a recent imimgrant client. Ann travels to the United Methodist Church in Decorah and in Columbus Junction, to Lovely Lane United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids and to Wesley United Methodist Church in Ottumwa. Ann shared this story at the Laity Day on April 25, 2015, at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Des Moines.

Jesse is a young woman from Guatemala.  She came to the U.S. with her parents when she was just 5 years old.  Eventually both her father and mother, who were legal permanent residents, applied for Jesse’s residency as well.  These applications can take many years to process, and by the time Jesse’s residency was ready for approval, she was a senior in high school.  She was a star soccer player, and was being offered multiple scholarships to area colleges.  In order to pick up her residency card, she had to first travel back to her native Guatemala.  She chose to put off the trip to Guatemala in order to finish high school.  Unfortunately, this meant that she stayed in the U.S. until well over her 18th birthday.  This is significant, because all of the time she was here after turning 18 was considered “unlawful presence,” and once a person starts accruing unlawful presence, that person is placed under a 10-year bar from being able to legally immigrate to the United States.  Jesse had no idea.  She graduated from high school, accepted admission and scholarships to a local college, and then finally made her plans to return to Guatemala to pick up her legal permanent residency, thinking it would be just a few weeks.  

When she got to Guatemala, she was informed by the consulate, that because of the unlawful presence she had accrued, she now would be stuck in Guatemala for 10 years.  There was a chance that she could “ask forgiveness” (request a waiver) from the 10-year bar, but when she submitted her first waiver request, she was denied.  

Jesse’s mother, Petra, came to Justice For Our Neighbors a few months after that first denial.  She was extremely depressed and worried about Jesse, who in her first year in Guatemala had already been attacked twice by armed bandits in the city, and who lived by herself in Guatemala City, because she had no relatives or friends still living in Guatemala.  JFON assisted Petra and Jesse file a second application for a waiver of the 10-year-bar.  These waivers are much more likely to be approved when prepared by an attorney, and happily Jesse’s second waiver was approved.   She will be returning within days to the United States – for the first time in 3 years.  She plans to go to college, as she had so looked forward to doing 3 years ago.