That the wait will be longer than 60 days is the greatest fear of the applicants for permanent residence affected by the executive order that President Donald Trump is expected to sign shortly to suspend the issuance of “green cards”, a document that for many has meant years of waiting.
That is the new anguish that Adelay Bonilla is adding to his life after the president’s announcement of his plan to “temporarily suspend immigration to the United States.
Although he has not yet signed the executive order, the migrants’ greatest fear is what will come next.
“I am worried that this wait will be longer than the 60 days (of suspension) because of this virus. My children are waiting for me in Los Angeles; they need me,” the migrant says in a frustrated tone to Efe in a telephone interview from Honduras.
ILLUSIONS OF LEGALIZATION ON HOLD
After living almost 15 years in the United States, the dream of obtaining permanent residency for the immigrant nearly came true on March 19 when she was scheduled to meet at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa to complete the petition made by her husband, a U.S. citizen.
Bonilla left Los Angeles on March 9, and since that date has been stuck in her home country, attending to quarantine orders and away from her family and her two children, ages 10 and 13.
The news that she will have to wait at least 60 more days fell like a bucket of cold water on her. “I feel desperate, especially for my children because they depend on me. I never thought this would happen to me,” says Bonilla, 30.
When she heard about the White House’s plans, the first thing she did was call her immigration lawyer, Fernando Romo. “My answer is that for the moment all we have to do is wait,” the lawyer warns.
“We have to study the executive order well, and also wait for the consulates, embassies and the Immigration Service offices to reopen,” he adds.
FEAR THAT EXTENDS TO ACTIVISTS
Angélica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), warns that Trump’s decision is affecting not only applicants for permanent residence but also those acting as petitioners.
That would be the case of Mexican José Amaya, a member of CHIRLA, who after becoming a citizen was planning to petition for his son José Francisco, whom he urgently needs to care for after his hearing operation. “Now, that possibility disappears for this 80-year-old citizen,” Salas emphasizes.
The activist’s pessimism is based on the Trump Administration’s lack of empathy with immigrants. “We have no confidence that this administration intends to keep this ban temporary,” she says.
DOCUMENTS THAT ARE NO LONGER IN FORCE
One of Mr. Romo’s biggest concerns about the suspension is the validity of certain documents such as letters of support, which are valid for one year.
“It’s going to be very complicated, many of the people who are asking their loved ones to lose their jobs, and they will have to look for other people to support them with these letters of support,” said the consulting lawyer for the Association of Salvadorans of Los Angeles (ASOSAL).
Although to a lesser extent the decision will also affect applications made by permanent residents regarding minor children, Romo said.
He points out that even though the offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were closed to the public, officials had continued to approve and send out permanent residencies in recent weeks.
About 20 of Romo’s clients received their green cards in the past two weeks, including U-Visa applicants for crime victims, political asylees, and some family applications.
In fiscal year 2019, about 1,031,000 foreigners were granted legal permanent resident status in the country, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Of this number, 572,000 adjusted status within the United States. According to USCIS, the number of pending applications for green cards in 2019 was reduced by 14% from the previous year.
Romo hopes that the decision will be challenged in the courts and that it can shine a light of hope for the thousands of immigrants who are waiting for a decision.
While 459,000 foreigners received their permanent residency as newcomers
MORE THAN A DECADE WAITING
Colombian Juan Carlos Díaz was hoping to be part of this list of newly arrived migrants in fiscal year 2020.
Diaz, 46, is waiting for the green light to a residency petition made by his sister Andrea in 2006.
“At the age of 14 we have to add 60 more days,” warns Andrea, who has been waiting patiently for the process to go forward.
When questioned about President Trump’s decision, Andrea says she does not understand what the coronavirus has to do with this decision to postpone the allocation of permanent residency.
“Now everything is going to be blamed on the coronavirus; that’s not fair,” she says.