Friday, February 10, 2012

Dangerous Path to U.S. Citizenship

More then 10,000 people each year are forced to travel to the U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico in attempts to gain legal citizenship. These consulates were originally developed to deal with permanent immigration visas. However, since then the city has become a hotspot for crime and violence. In 2010, 3,000 people were murdered.  Shawn Mead, an immigration attorney describes this situation as a catch 22. 

It's an impossible situation: They have the option of staying here unlawfully, not being able to get their residence now or ever, or going and living in the city of Juarez, a place where people do get murdered all the time,"

 For Tania Nava, her choice to become a legal citizen got her husband, Jake Reyes-Neal murdered. Jake was an American citizen who decided to travel to Mexico to protect his wife from the dangerous conditions taking place in Juarez. He had never been to Mexico before and didn’t speak any Spanish.

 Nava and Jake met in high school where they fell fast in love and decided to get married at age 18. Soon after they had a son named Anthony. Nava and her family came to America from their native country of Mexico when she was 7 years old. Since her marriage to Jake didn’t automatically make her a US citizen, Nava still faced potential deportation. Nava felt that the next step in her life was to apply for U.S citizenship.

The first step for Nava and her husband was to try to understand the complicated U.S. citizen laws without help from a lawyer. They soon learned that federal law stated that since she had come to America illegally she would be forced to leave the United States for up to ten tears. As they became to lose hope, Nava learned that she could apply for a hardship waiver. This requested that US immigration would not separate her from her family. However, she had to file the waiver in her birth country, which meant moving back to Juarez, Mexico. So Nava left her family behind and moved to Mexico where she felt like a foreigner.

Back at home in America, Jake was feeling the strain of being away from his beloved wife. He decided that it would be better for his family if they were all together, so him and his son joined Nava in Mexico.  In attempts to speed up the process Jake wrote a letter to the consulate begging them to give his wife the hardship waiver so she could live in America while she waited permanent legal residency. 

He wrote, "I am living with my wife and son in perilous and very dangerous conditions in Juarez, Mexico. We live with fear of our lives on a daily basis," he wrote. "As U.S Citizens, my son and I are facing extreme danger everyday we wake up in one of the most violent cities in the world” 

His letter went unanswered and after 6 months he was shot more then 80 times outside his family’s home. The motives of the attacker were unclear although they suspect robbery.

The last words that Nava recalls her husband saying was “I don’t speak Spanish, ‘No hablo espanol.” Then she heard then gunshots and ran outside to find Jake and her grandfather lying on the floor dead.

Today Nava lives in Colorado with her son waiting for permanent residency. Here is a video link to Nada's story.

What happened to this family was a tragic example of how obtaining U.S. citizenship is a dangerous and timely process. Immigration services has proposed a rule change in hopes of reducing the length of time that families have to be separated during the process of gaining legal citizenship. This would have the waiver applications processed in America before the immigrant departs.

This waiver still has ways to go before becoming official, including a period of public comment. However, the longer we wait to change immigration standards it will be too late for some families like Jake Reyes-Neal.


Khalid, Kiran. "Dangerous Path to Legal Status for Some Immigrants -" - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <>.


  1. I think many of these immigration laws should be changed. I do not know much about the immigration laws but I dont think it should be lawful for the USA to rip away a mother from her husband and son. I never heard of this story before, so thanks for writing your blog on this topic. To be shot over 80 times...that shows how dangerous that city is.

  2. I have heard about how dangerous many of the border towns in Mexico can be. In one city the organized gangs have killed several police chiefs. I heard on the radio just the other day that the U.S. government is advising U.S. citizens not to travel to Mexico due to surging violence. But this story here is sad. A young couple was just trying to do things the right way. They were even willing to face high levels of danger in order to do things by the books and this young man was executed. On one hand I think illegals shouldn't be allowed to stay but on the other hand there must be something severely wrong with the immigration system otherwise this wouldn't be such a big issue.

  3. I sympathize with anyone trying to obtain U.S. citizenship these days. I'm only second generation and I feel that if my grandparents were applying for citizenship today they would face the same endless waiting game as Nava and Jake. I believe everyone has the right to pursue a better life and if that means relocating yourself and family to a better country more power to them. For a country that has always prospered from immigration we have a pretty negative view of them. I'd like to see some legislation for quicker U.S. citizenship.