Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, illegal immigrants who married a U.S. citizen could pay a fine to obtain legal residency status, but this provision of visa law expired; now, illegal immigrants who marry a citizen often must return to their home country in order to obtain documentation to legally live and work in the States. Alyssa Garcia, a 26-year-old woman from Hibbing, Minnesota, believes this requirement led to the death of her husband.
Alyssa married Charlie Garcia, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, in 2009, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Garcia told Alyssa that he had entered the country without the proper documentation in 2000, when he was 19. At the time he and Alyssa married, he was facing deportation.
Because he had originally entered the country illegally, Garcia was told he would have to return to El Salvador and apply for a waiver stating his absence created a hardship on his American spouse, MPR reported. If granted, the waiver would allow him to return to the United States. Garcia did not want to go back to El Salvador, fearing the pervasive gang violence there, but he left his wife and newborn daughter and returned to his country of birth.
The news source reported many illegal immigrants who marry U.S. citizens expect it will be easy to obtain a green card, and are surprised upon learning they are required to first leave the country. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency spokesman told MPR it can take between a few weeks to over a year for spousal waivers to be processed.
While waiting for his waiver to go through, Garcia was killed in gang-related violence in El Salvador, MPR reported.
Melissa Sundvall, Alyssa Garcia’s mother, blames her son-in-law’s death on U.S. immigration law and the agencies that enforce it, telling MPR he was made to stay in El Salvador too long.
Clay Riggsbee and his wife, Cam Giang Tran Thi, blame the vagaries of the visa application process for the death of their child, according to South Carolina ABC affiliate WPDE. While Thi was in Vietnam struggling to obtain a K-1 fiancee visa, the couples’ daughter contracted hand, foot and mouth disease and, unable to travel to the United States for medical care, the girl died.