TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A Twin Falls mom is stuck in limbo after she recently traveled to Mexico to continue the process of applying for permanent U.S. residency on a spousal visa.
What was supposed to be a quick trip across the border turned out to be a traumatizing experience for Miriam Herrera and her family.
“We never thought this would happen. It’s very heartbreaking to see my kids wondering when I’m coming home," she said.
Miriam Herrera and her husband Baldamar ‘Tito’ Herrera flew to Cuidad Juarez, Mexico at the beginning of January to continue her process of becoming an American citizen.
The immigration process includes filling out the initial application then getting a green card. After the person legally holds it for three to five years, the naturalization process begins.
But for Miriam, it’s been a long five years with high hopes - only to get denied.
Once in Mexico, her application for citizenship was rejected, and she says she’s been banned from reentering the United States for 10 years.
"At that point, I was in shock and in disbelief. I was just like, 'why am I getting banned from entering the US when I have done everything the right way?'" she said. "I never worked because I didn't want to use an illegal name, I've never driven because didn't want to get a ticket. I just wanted to do everything the right way."
Now, Miriam is stuck more than a thousand miles from home in an unfamiliar country.
“Where we are here in Mexico, we just stay inside. It’s all fenced and barbed wire," Tito Herrera said. "We are scared, we don’t want to go out. We don’t know this place."
The denial paper Miriam received from the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. Miriam says she entered the US with her parents when she was 5 years old and again at the age of 7. According to the US Consulate’s denial document, she was unlawfully present in the U.S.
Immigration attorney Rose Rony says the decision was an error made by the U.S. Consulate.
"In her case, the only thing was the unlawful presence, which she already has that waived," Rony said. "It's not typical in her case for that to happen. So, it was a shock to all of us who was on the case."
Tito Herrera says the news was devastating, but they refused to give up.
"I started to look for solutions on what I could do. I started emailing. I started calling people," he said.
Community Council of Idaho’s Community Director Antonio Madera says Tito even emailed state and federal elected officials seeking help.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s office sent a letter on the family's behalf.
"Within a few hours they got an email saying their case was being reviewed and that it did not apply to her and they would turn in the passport and do the proceedings as normal,” says Madera.
The letter asked the consulate to dismiss its original decision, making her waiver valid once again. Rony says she hopes to get a response from the consulate by next week.
But for now, Miriam and her husband are staying in a country they know little about, just waiting for the moment they can return to their home and children.
"I want this to get fixed," Tito Herrera said. "I want to be able to go back home to our kids and I want my wife to go back home to her kids."
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