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Center for Human Rights and International Justice

Post-Deportation Project Legal Victory

family reunited nearly six years after mother's deportation

Another family has been reunited thanks to the work of the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project (PDHRP), just in time for the holidays.  Bob, a U.S. citizen from Rhode Island, picked up his wife and his daughter – also a U.S. citizen – at the airport earlier this month.  They can now look forward to celebrating the holidays together for the first time in seven years.  Bob’s wife, Carolina, came to the U.S. in the late 1990’s on a visitor visa.  She met Bob at work, and the couple eventually moved in together and had a daughter.  When their daughter was two years old, Carolina was detained by immigration agents at work, held in a jail for four months, and ultimately deported for having overstayed her visa.  The family tried to start a new life in Carolina’s country of origin, but they simply couldn’t make ends meet.  After six months, they made the difficult decision to separate the family and Bob returned to the U.S. to work and be able to support his wife and daughter financially.  Since then, their time together as a family has been limited to a single short visit each year – the only time Bob was able to afford the plane ticket to visit his wife and daughter. 

Although U.S. citizens can generally petition for their spouses to be allowed to immigrate to the U.S., individuals who have overstayed a visa or who have been deported are barred from re-entering the country, often for ten or more years.  In such instances, special waivers must be granted to allow the individual to obtain an immigrant visa and to return to their families’ side, but such waivers are difficult to obtain and the wait can be long.  With the assistance of the PDHRP, Carolina submitted applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services documenting the extreme emotional and financial hardship her husband and daughter were experiencing as a result of the separation and requesting that she be granted a waiver.   The family received good news when the waiver was granted in September, though it took an additional three months for Carolina to obtain the visa to travel.

The PDHRP, based at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College, aims to conceptualize a new area of law, providing direct representation to individuals who have been deported and promoting the rights of deportees and their family members through research, legal and policy analysis, media advocacy, training programs, and participatory action research.  Our ultimate goal is to introduce legal predictability, proportionality, compassion, and respect for family unity into the deportation laws and policies of this country, and to achieve a just outcome for families like Bob, Carolina and their daughter, now finally together again. 

For more information on PDHRP, please visit www.bc.edu/postdeportation.

(December 2012)