What Have We Won? What Have We Lost? – Long Separated Families Reunited

Two American wives have been reunited with their immigrant husbands after years of harsh separation due to punitive anti-immigrant policies. Mrs. Z was separated from her husband and father of their three U.S. Citizen children for over two years while he was stranded in Mexico, awaiting a decision on his long-pending immigration application to allow him to be reunited with his family in the United States. Mrs. P was separated from her husband for over five years while he was stranded in his native Ukraine, waiting to be reunited with his wife.

Why were these families separated? In each of these cases, both husband and wife had resided in the United States for many years, establishing American families and homes. For different reasons, both husbands were forced to return to their home countries. Once there, however, they were both unable to re-enter the United States despite their close familial ties to U.S. citizens, due to one of the many punitive anti-immigrant and anti-family measures in American immigration law. The specific law in question forbids anyone who has spent more than one year without documents in the United States, and leaves the country, from returning to the U.S. for 10 years, without prior consideration for the existence of immediate family members who are U.S. citizens. Although immigration law allows someone subjected to this “10-year bar” to request a waiver, the immigrant must demonstrate that the spouse who is a U.S. citizen would suffer “extreme hardship” if the couple could not be reunited. This is not only a very high standard, but the lengthy adjudication of such a waiver application can often force families to be unnecessarily separated for years before it is resolved.

How did this separation impact these families? In the case of Mrs. Z, she was forced to apply for public benefits for herself and her children. With her husband, the primary bread winner in the family, stuck in Mexico, she could no longer afford to pay their mortgage and feed their children. In the case of Mrs. P, she could no longer set aside money for her retirement as she now needed to send money to support her husband, who was stuck in Ukraine, unemployed. These were just the basic economic costs. The enormous emotional strain on these families was incalculable.

After years of needless separation, the U.S. consulates in Mexico and Ukraine finally adjudicated the waiver applications and granted them to both husbands. The families are now reunited and able to restart their lives together, in their homes – in the United States.

Share This!