Despite being married to a U.S. citizen, Agustin Portillo cannot get residency status in the United States.
While many believe that being married to an individual with citizenship will make getting a green card very easy, thousands of couples are living under similar circumstances as Portillo and his wife Ana. While both Agustin and Ana lived in the United States illegally at first, Ana was granted amnesty due to the war-torn nature of her home country of El Salvador. After living together for nearly 20 years, Agustin is now stuck in his home country of Mexico.
The misconception used to lie in truth, however. According to the Associated Press, before 1996, illegal immigrants were easily granted a green card if their spouse or parents lived in the United States legally. However, after much criticism, President Bill Clinton passed a law making it much more difficult for binational families to stay together.
Every two weeks, Ana drives 150 miles down to Tijuana to see Agustin for a few days. They must leave each other at the border gates, something they have done for nearly two years.
“I have some friends who say, ‘I don’t understand how you can live like that,'” Ana said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s very hard to find someone who is a good match for you … He really understands me.”
The trouble started when Agustin developed a hernia. The illness brought a sense of fragility to him, and he made the decision to visit his family in southern Mexico one last time before he died. Although he asked Ana to come with him, she refused, saying that her well-paying job in the United States was incomparable to the wages she could make in Mexico. After visiting family and friends for several months, Agustin tried to return to the United States twice on a fake visa, but was denied both times. Because this is a large immigration offense, Agustin is now stuck in Mexico, despite his wife living legally in the United States.