Barbara J. Wrightby Representative Mark Pocan
Posted on 2013-02-15
in the house of representatives
Friday, February 15, 2013
Mr. POCAN. Mr. Speaker, I submit the following letter.
Barbara Wright, Workers Rights Center, 10th Anniversary Celebration My name is Barbara J. Wright, and I am a resident of Madison, Wisconsin. I have been married twice in my life, both times to husbands who were born in other countries. I have two children from my first marriage. Cesar Gabriel Moran, 39, is a firmware engineer in St. Paul Minnesota and Nickolas James Moran is a jazz musician here in Madison.
On July 27th, 1972, I married Cesar Edmundo Moran in Magdalena del Mar, Lima Peru. I was 19 years old and he was 18. We were married for 25 years. He had been studying in Platteville, Wisconsin at the University of Platteville. When we left the country to travel to Peru (we hitch-hiked there!), he lost his student visa. After we married in Peru, I returned to the US and filed for him to get a permanent resident visa (a green card). He had to stay in Peru until it arrived. I sent the form to the INS along with $25 dollars, both of our birth certificates, our marriage license, and a letter from the police to say we had committed no crimes. In a month he was able to pick up his permission to travel and his green card at the American Embassy in Lima and return to the US, so we could both go to college.
My marriage to Cesar ended in 1998 although it was a few years till we were legally divorced. In 2004, I married Youssef Amraoui, from Morocco. We were married in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6th, 2004. This time getting Youssef permanent residence status took more than 5 years. Between the legal fees to file all of the petitions and to pay the immigration lawyer, Irene Wren at Wren and Gateways Law Group, it cost almost $12,000. Luckily, Youssef had filed for a waiver by himself with no lawyer, so that he did not have to leave the country while he waited for his case to be determined. Imagine getting married and having your new husband have to go back to his country and wait five years to see each other again.
Because the INS was now under the wing of Homeland Security, there were many additional steps which meant additional delays. When I asked Irene why things were taking so long she said that there was a huge backlog of cases, between 4 and 6 years of cases. She said Homeland Security insisted that each case be reviewed by the FBI and since it was not a criminal case, it gathered dust in someone's inbox for a long time.
One time, Homeland Security called and demanded that Youssef come to Milwaukee alone to be ``interviewed''. We were waiting for a formal interview in Milwaukee that is now a part of the process, but this was not it. The man who called tried to intimidate me when I said that Youssef was not coming alone. I said that either I or the immigration attorney would go with him (I was petrified of his being taken into custody or forcibly removed or never hearing from him again). This man tried to convince me that Youssef could be a ``sleeper agent'', and they needed to interview him. Because I owned a restaurant and could not leave, I sent the attorney with him. Youssef said they kept him in a room that had shackles but did not shackle him. Irene said this was a scare tactic because Moroccans and other Muslims were all suspects because of the attack on 9/11. They just wanted to see if he would come or he would run. That was a horrible day.
It seemed like every time we would reach the end of the process there would be more forms to fill out, more fees to pay, and more of an indefinite wait. At one point in the process, the fees were doubled. We paid the majority of our discretionary income to this process. Youssef's parents were old, and he lived in fear that they would die before he was able to go and see them. You have to have permission to leave the country once the papers are filed. If you leave without permission, you cannot come back.
I know many people here who are undocumented. The press has been talking a lot about a ``path to citizenship''. I think very few of the people saying this have any idea what is really involved. Because of the high fees of immigration attorneys, the many steps of the process and the time involved, many will have a hard time coming up with the money for this process.