As a child I never really took into account how much my parents weren’t able to do being [undocumented] immigrants,» recalls Antonio Alcala Jr., the oldest child of Santiaga Galindo and Antonio Alcala, a Mexican couple living in Texas.
«[As I got older] it really affected me. There was always the fear of not seeing them again, of struggling to make a living. [I worried] I’d have to quit school to dedicate myself to work and care for my siblings [if they got deported.]”
Antonio’s mother, Santiaga originally came to our law firm about her husband, Antonio senior. Both parents were undocumented, but Antonio senior had a criminal record for domestic violence – issues they had long since resolved through counselling. Still, Santiaga knew that the ICE was cracking down on immigrants with records, and she didn’t want her family to get torn apart.
The family hoped to fix Antonio’s papers as soon as possible – and with Antonio Jr. turning 21 in a few months, they knew they had their opportunity, so they came to us for help to prepare.
Our law firm put a plan together for Antonio Jr. to sponsor his father’s Green Card as soon as his birthday came around. We were already preparing their documents when we got the phone call.
Antonio senior had been picked up by ICE and placed on deportation proceedings.
«At first I thought it was a joke, then Antonio called me from the office he was detained at, that’s when I decided to tell my kids what was going,» recalls Santiaga. «None of us attended work or school that day … it wasn’t a normal day for us. «
The children took it hard. «It was such a heartbreaking moment, it’s just something I didn’t expect to happen,» remembers Antonio Jr. «I just wanted to fix it.»
From that point on, it became all about buying time until Antonio Jr. turned twenty-one. Fortunately, our lawyers were able to appeal the case to the Board of Immigration Appeals and Antonio senior was let out on an immigration bond to await the hearing at home.
Then, while preparing Antonio’s case for the immigration judge, our lawyers found out something amazing.
In 1998, Antonio’s brother, Valeriano, had filed a Green Card petition for Antonio. Normally, this would mean very little, as the wait time for Mexican sibling petitions is more than 20 years. But coupled with the new petition from their son, Antonio would be eligible for a 245(i) Status Adjustment, a statute which allows «certain persons, who have an immigrant visa immediately available but entered without inspection to apply for said visa – if they are beneficiaries, directly or indirectly, of a grandfathering petition and pay a $1,000 fine.»
The 1998 Green Card petition would count as the grandfathering petition, meaning once their son turned 21 and filed a new Green Card petition on his behalf, Antonio would be eligible for the adjustment. What shocked everyone was when our lawyers realized that Santiaga would be eligible as well.
Vinish Patel, the head lawyer on the case, remembers the moment well.
«At first, we didn’t think it possible. Santiaga and Antonio had gotten married only recently,» he explained «so she would not have been a beneficiary of the 1998 Green Card petition, making her ineligible for the status adjustment. A lot of attorneys take things at face value, like the marriage date, but when you dig deep, good things can happen.»
Patel and his team realized that according to the laws of the State of Texas, the couple had been in a common law marriage since 1994. As Texas sees common law marriages as legally binding marriages, Santiaga could be grandfathered in as an indirect beneficiary of her brother-in-laws’ 1998 Green Card petition. Which meant that Santiaga too met all the qualifications for a «person who has an immigrant visa immediately available.»
She was eligible for a Green Card, and our law firm immediately set out to help her get it.
Santiaga was floored. «I couldn’t believe that I would finally be able to live here in the States worry free about my immigration status.»
Our lawyers helped Santiaga and her son file their petitions, which took ten months to clear. After more than two decades of living without papers, Santiaga finally became a legal US resident, while her husband Antonio avoided deportation.
For Santiaga, it was practically a miracle. «I felt as if I had just done the impossible. Thanks to the staff, Mr. Patel … with their dedication and attention to my case I was able not only to be a US resident, but also have my husband back by my side.»
Thankfully, and with a Green Card application pending before the court, Antonio senior should also become eligible for permanent residency, ending a life of living in the shadows for one proud, Mexican-American family.