success story: Marisol, Johnny, and Benjie

Marisol and her son Benjie came to the US over fifteen years ago and have been fighting to stay in the country for almost as long. A few years after she arrived in the US, Marisol met Johnny in an online chat room (this was before the time of and long before Tinder). Marisol and Johnny went on a date not long after, and they clicked. As they spent more and more time together, Marisol and Johnny fell in love, and they decided to get married. To save money, they moved in with Marisol’s sister and brother-in-law. Johnny worked nights and spent time with his brother, so he wasn’t always at the same home as Marisol. Still, immigration officials concluded the marriage was truthful and gave Marisol a green card. Oddly, immigration let the application for Benjie linger for years. Eventually, Marisol and Johnny applied to renew Marisol’s green card and to check up on the application for Benjie. Immigration then called Benjie for an interview.

Benjie’s green card interview is where everything went wrong. Johnny couldn’t take time off of work, so he worked his usual night shift. Early the next morning – during Benjie’s green card interview – an immigration officer misinterpreted Johnny’s tiredness for nervousness. The officer isolated Johnny, interrogated him, and convinced him to sign a statement saying that his marriage to Marisol was fake. Immigration promptly denied Marisol’s green card renewal, denied Benjie’s green card request, and put Marisol and Benjie into removal proceedings. The setbacks were serious, but Marisol and Johnny did not waiver. They fought their case in immigration court, arguing that they married truthfully for love. Despite their efforts, an immigration judge thought the marriage was fake and ordered Marisol and Benjie removed from the United States.

Marisol and Johnny appealed. The appeals office sent the case back to the immigration court for another trial. That is when Marisol and Johnny turned to Keith Southam, first at a prior law office and then at Southam Law. Marisol and Johnny stayed married through out the ordeal and moved several times. Johnny even legally adopted Benjie. The long and well-documented history indicated that the immigration judge was wrong, so the new trial was welcomed.

But chronic understaffing and errors at the immigration court kept delaying the second trial. The new trial was postponed not once or twice, but four separate times. Finally in early December 2017 – thirteen years after Marisol and Johnny first married – an immigration judge really listed to their story. Marisol and Johnny explained to the judge that they married truthfully for love and that Johnny’s statement was a terrible mistake. The immigration judge agreed. She approved Marisol’s green card renewal and gave Benjie a chance to apply for his very first green card. Marisol is now an unconditional permanent resident and Benjie has only formalities to jump through. After years of struggling, the family finally knows they will not be split up!

(Names changed for privacy purposes.)

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