Miriam Herrera: ‘If you know you’re right, don’t give up’
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Miriam Herrera woke early Monday and struggled to get his bearings. Was she back in her own bedroom with her kids next door at their home in Twin Falls, Idaho? Or was this a dream and would she wake up in the guest bedroom of a family in Juarez, Mexico, who gave her shelter after the US government banned her from re-entering the country on January 7 for the next 10 years?
“It took me a while to realize it wasn’t a dream, that I’m finally home again. It has been a harrowing experience that has made me appreciate my family and my children more than ever,” Herrera said over the phone.
Miriam was allowed to return to the United States on Sunday and flew back to Twin Falls with her husband Baldemar Herrera.
The wife of a US citizen arrived in El Paso early this month to make an appointment for an I-130 matrimonial visa at the US consulate in Juarez. With no criminal record and assurances from her lawyers that the appropriate “pardons” had been obtained for illegal presence in the US when she was a 5- and 7-year-old, she thought she would be the last hurdle to get her “green card.”
But the consulate’s immigration service disputed her length of stay, which her father, now deceased, had told her was only a few months. Instead of a green light for legal permanent residency, she was given a 10-year ban from the United States.
The woman was emotionally devastated, even as her husband worked on the phone with her attorneys, the Immigration Department and the office of Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. The couple chatted with their children every night and soon ran out of excuses not to go home in a few days, as planned.
“The senator’s office has launched an investigation. They contacted (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) and said the ban did not apply in my case,” she said.
Shortly after, the US consulate contacted her for additional information and requested her passport. “I checked the status of my case online every day until I saw that it had changed from ‘rejected’ to ‘approved’ on January 21. A week later they told me my passport and package were ready for pick up. I got it on Saturday morning, and we immediately bought plane tickets to Idaho,” she said.
Visas for relatives of U.S. citizens, especially spouses, have a high approval rate, according to immigration law experts in El Paso. However, tens of thousands are refused every year.
USCIS says the top reasons for denial are insufficient or erroneous information, ineligibility, fraud and — the agency admits — processing errors.
The agency does not discuss individual cases and Crapo’s office previously declined to comment on Miriam Herrera’s situation. But the woman and her husband believe that the visa was wrongly refused and that the 10-year ban is unjustified.
On Monday, as she got used to her routine as a housewife and mother, Herrera had some advice for immigrants striving to stay legally or enter the United States.
“Hopefully my case can serve as an example for others in the same situation. If you know you’re right, if you know you’ve done everything by the book to get the visa, don’t give up,” she said. “When you get bad news, don’t just cross your arms, but fight for your rights.”