In this age of doom and gloom, it’s nice to be reminded of good things happening to good people. We get mired down in backlogs and the erosion of due process (which we should definitely be fighting against!), and sometimes we forget to savor the victories.
I had a pretty sweet victory this week. I’ve known Pablo for at least eight years…He was a client at the firm I used to work for. His I-751 was pending for eight years. Yes, you read that correctly. An application that should take a year or less was caught up in some major red tape. What happened?
Pablo entered the U.S. without inspection and in 2004, was ordered removed from the United States. His U.S. citizen wife at the time, Cynthia, fought to bring him back to the U.S. She filed an I-601 and he was able to obtain an immigrant visa and return. That was already a miracle in and of itself. But, because they’d been married for less than two years when he entered the country, he was only given a two-year conditional green card.
Unfortunately, Pablo and Cynthia had a really hard time living together once he returned. They filed force divorce right around the time he needs to file an I-751 for getting his permanent green card. If a couple is together, they have to file the I-751 together within 90 days of the green card expiring. However, if the couple has divorced, the foreign national can apply for a good faith waiver I-751 at any time. Yes, even after the card expires.
Since the divorce wasn’t finalized, we filed the I-751 after the card expired. Yet, USCIS decided to place Pablo in removal proceedings. It added a lot of unnecessary stress and expense to the case. Thankfully, though, the Immigration Judge terminated the removal proceedings and kicked the case back to USCIS to adjudicate.
We know it can take a long time to get an interview on I-751s, so he waited. And he waited. Pablo then found me at my new firm and asked if I could find out what happened to his case. He’d been going to USCIS every year for three years to get a stamp in his passport to verify his legal status and each time, the officer told him that his case was pending. He updated his address in person at USCIS, too.
I contacted the Atlanta Field Office to ask about the case and to be added on as the attorney at my new firm. I was assured that the case was pending and we waited.
About a year ago, we got a letter from the Atlanta Field Office. It said the I-751 had been denied because Pablo failed to appear for an interview. What?!? He never received notice of the interview and I never received notice of the interview. He had updated his address and USCIS should have sent me a copy any correspondence they sent my client. They again put him in removal proceedings.
There was no way I was going to let Pablo deal with Immigration Court again, so I contacted USCIS and went through all the ways things got screwed-up. I understand that systems are old, that they may not update as they should…but my client should not be punished and put in proceedings because of the agency’s shortcomings.
In January this year, USCIS rescinded the notice to appear, taking the case back from the Immigration Court. We were finally called in for an interview and after a few questions, were told that the case was approved, pending one last background check. It was through the clouds parted and the angels started singing.
We’re still waiting for Pablo’s new green card to be produced, but we know its coming. Eight years after he filed the I-751, he can finally stop worrying about being deported.