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California citizenship: Help sought after lengthy separations

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2013 | Citizenship

California families and others across the nation are appealing to Congress to ease the restrictions on bars that keep their loved ones out of the country. Bars occur when someone undocumented is going through the citizenship process, but gets caught crossing the border from their country back into the United States. One representative has called the punishments cruel because it separates families and forces one parent to raise the children alone.

In one situation, a Los Angeles man’s undocumented wife received a lifetime ban because she was caught trying to cross the border more than once. She is not eligible to appeal for 10 years, and is prevented from reentering the country until at least 2018. The woman is now forced to live outside the United States with their two young children.

Another woman moved across the border in order to be with her husband and their children. She tried to seek legal status for him after they married, but she was unaware of the possibility of a lifetime ban. The man was caught crossing the border and was also given a lifetime ban because he had done so more than once. She stays in the country because she wants to keep everyone together, but the children are forced to sleep in difficult conditions. She claims she and her family have become targets because of her American citizenship, and she has to live with the constant threat of kidnapping and extortion.

Hardship waivers do exist for people subjected to bars. However, the waivers only apply to those who entered the country once to reside, and do not apply to those who have crossed the border multiple times. No guarantees exist that the waivers will receive approval, and thousands of families have already been rejected.

Complaints have resulted in changes to the waiver process, but it won’t affect the families who have received the lifetime bar. California residents who marry an undocumented resident may want to familiarize themselves with citizenship requirements. Legal options are available for people who have been separated from their loved ones. Citizenship can often be a lengthy and sometimes stressful process, and navigating the system may be difficult for immigrants who are unfamiliar with it.

Source:, “California family torn apart by 1996 immigration law plead with Congress,” Susan Ferriss, Feb. 15, 2013