The consul reminded me of the 10-year travel ban. That on or after November 8, 2015 — not earlier – or 10 years after my mom, was deported in 2005 for overstaying her visa, I can email the U.S. Embassy and inquire about my mother’s approved petition. I asked if I need to file another petition, and she informed me I didn’t have to. I asked if I could… and she stopped me and said to ask everything on or after November 8, 2015.
This is where I am, and where my thoughts are drifting as I celebrate this month my 16th American birthday. I am counting the months, the weeks and the days. My daughter is getting married in January 2016 and I would love to have my entire family, especially my mother, to be here when that momentous occasion happens.
This month is my 16th American birthday, supposedly Sweet 16, but there are so many unknowns that there really isn’t anything sweet about it at all. At least that’s how I feel in one of my sulky moods.
Thirty-one years ago I left the Philippines on a tourist visa. I remember telling the Immigration Officer at the Port of Entry the ruse that I was going to visit Disney as part of my graduation present. A few weeks ago, I celebrated my American birthday in Disney. I loved being in Disney, the happiest place on earth, but it’s a reminder of the huge financial cost and the intense emotional pain of my American journey.
I had planned on taking my parents to Disney about 10 years ago after their immigrant petition had been approved. However, there was a removal order against them and by INS rules, they first have to go back to the Philippines. My father died waiting to get beyond that 10-year ban. Today, my mom is left waiting all by herself, she is ready and hopeful. Three more months, mom. We’re almost there.
I am filled with renewed anxiety. Will her visa be approved? It’s already been approved. But many things can get in the way: new immigration guidelines, travel security, Beltway politics. I am like a broken record to my kids, when I remind them, “We have to do things together as a family as much as we can. Family has to come first because you never know when your family will be taken away from you!”
I used to get four confused looks every time I said that. But after seeing the heart-wrenching deportations that visited on my family five times (plus one voluntary departure), they understand. I was an emotional wreck only pretending to be strong!
Been there, done that! The process to bring my family to rejoin us in America was long, anguishing, and very expensive.
(Photo by Ramon Dompor)
The week after Thanksgiving of 2006, I called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A customer service representative informed me that I didn’t need to file a new petition but instead I have to file an Application for Action on An Approved Application or Petition (I-824).
I went online, printed the forms and mailed in the application together with the $400 application fee for my parents. In a few weeks, I also filed an immigrant petition for my younger brothers which cost an additional $380 each in filing fees.
The paperwork for my parents took two years. In January 2007, my parents each received a letter from the U.S. Department of State National Visa Center (NVC). The letter advised us that my parents both needed to send a completed Application for Immigrant Visa (DS-230) with a processing fee of $760 for both of them. I also needed to complete an Affidavit of Support (I-864) with a fee of $140. Needless to say, it was a piece of good news that we all needed to hear.
We hadn’t even completed the first step of the application process, and I was already daydreaming. In the summer of 2007, the two oldest grandchildren (my daughter, Nicole, and Kuya Teng’s oldest son, Paolo) were graduating from high school. I was already planning where my parents would stay and what a great celebration that would be!
My mother-in-law had helped me every time I needed to submit the paperwork. She would review every question and answer. The paperwork would cover the entire dining room table. Filing for both parents could be confusing at times. It involved two sets of applications! I gathered income tax forms and various supporting documents while Dad and Mom were occupied getting together all the proper documents, such as birth certificates, police certificates, passports, deportation papers and marriage certificates. By April 13, 2007, my parents were scheduled to go to the American Embassy for an interview.
I felt excited, anxious, ambivalent – a volcano of emotions!
Dad called and informed me that they were asked to bring additional documents, retake fingerprints and submit their current and previous passports. Dad and Mom submitted the required documents a week later. Four weeks passed, and we still did not hear back from the U.S. Embassy. And then on May 30, 2007, my parents were asked to go back to the U.S. Embassy. We waited anxiously, and then finally…
The form stated: “The office regrets to inform you that it is unable to issue a visa to you because you have been found ineligible to receive a visa under the following section(s) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act: You were unlawfully present in the U.S. for 365 days or more and voluntarily departed. (10-year ban)”
No tears from me. I was angry more than anything else! I was angry at my U.S. government for letting us go through the process of applying, spending more money on documents they required after the initial interview – just for them to inform us that my parents were not even eligible in the first place!
I am the kind of person who thrives on challenges. I view challenge as a motivation but this is one challenge whose outcome I have no control of.
It’s another election year and thanks to Donald Trump, people are talking about immigration – again! I’ve heard it for 30 years and I don’t think there’ll be new policies that would help my family in the Philippines. Right now the focus seems to be on illegal immigration and not on streamlining legal immigration for cases like my Mom and my brothers.
It’s been a challenging journey but faith and family keep us moving forward.
The article was originally published in TheFilAm.