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 - CNN.com."CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/09/us/juarez-dangerous-marriage/index.html?npt=NP1>.