By Marlys Good
When Marisela Burgos left Casper early in the morning on Feb. 15, it was with high hopes that she and her 17-year-old brother Eduardo would finally realize their dreams of attaining their permanent residencies in the United States.
It was something they had been working on for more than two years and had reached the point where the one thing remaining to complete the process were interviews with officials in Juarez, Mexico.
Marisela explained that the interview had to be in Juarez because “my parents are permanent residents and since my Mom sponsored me, it had to be there.”
Her parents were “very nervous” when they heard the interviews were to be held in Juarez. “They were afraid that something would go wrong and we wouldn’t be able to come back. My brother and I insisted that we needed to take the chance because we were tired of basically ‘living in the shadows.’”
Her parents, Juan and Maria and her older brother Marco, who has his permanent residency, and Eduardo picked up Marisela in Casper and drove as far as New Mexico where they stayed with her aunt, and “the next day we left for Juarez; there was no turning back now,” she said.
Arriving in Juarez, the siblings had “fingerprint” appointments and on Feb. 19 appointments for mandatory physicals. They spent their free time with her uncle and his family in Juarez. “Everything seemed to be going well at this point,” she said.
February 20 is a day Marisela will long remember. The interviews were scheduled for 7:15 a.m., but they had learned from previous appointments that the time set didn’t really matter. “It was first come, first served, so we started standing in line (at the U.S. Consul) at 6:15. I kept getting butterflies in my tummy thinking this is finally it; just one more day and I’ll be able to go back home.”
Time dragged on; it seemed endless. “My mom kept saying, ‘Just have faith and everything will be okay; there’s no way they can say no.’”
After a five-hour wait they finally met their interviewer, who promptly asked both Eduardo and Marisela for their caller numbers, and grabbed their files.
Sometime during their 15-minute interview, he asked if they had brought an immigration pardon for Marisela; it was at this point Marisela felt her heart drop. They had been told that as long as Marisela wasn’t 19 she didn’t need one. From the look on the interviewer’s face, Marisela knew they were in trouble.
Eduardo’s request was quickly approved. But Marisela said when he grabbed her passport “I saw a blue sheet; the same type of blue sheet I saw him put on the paperwork of the lady before us before he tossed it into the ‘refused’ stack of papers.”
He told them that because Marisela had turned 18 in the United States, she had to have left six months within turning 18 or gotten her immigration pardon; as an adult, she was responsible for being in the U.S. undocumented and therefore would have to serve a three-year penalty.
Marisela felt numb as the man said that she could apply for an immigration pardon and if she was accepted they could continue the process.
All she heard was “three years. I kept repeating that in my head. I will be here for three years. I felt it was a nightmare and any minute I would wake up and be back in the hotel. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt the world around me crashing down; everything just gone.”
That afternoon the Burgoses left Juarez and drove to her grandmother’s house in Aldama, Chihuahua. Marisela had been 8 years old the last time she had visited her grandmother. “It definitely doesn’t feel like my home,’” she shared in an email. “I will be staying with my grandma until we get something figured out. I am currently waiting on an immigration pardon which can take four to six months or maybe longer.”
Marisela emailed Monday and said, “I’ve accepted that I am going to be here. I am doing a lot better emotionally because I have such great support; even though I can’t be there, I know that there are a lot of people in my community who are doing everything they can to help bring me home.”
She is enrolled at Casper College where she is a member of the forensics team. She plans on finishing this semester online and said her teachers have been very helpful and understanding. “My parents will be leaving as soon as my brother’s permanent residency comes in and my older brother is meeting with lawyers to see how we can get my application moved along faster.
“My entire life has been put on hold and it breaks my heart. My home is in the United States. I have lived there basically my entire life; everything I have is over there – my family, my friends, my life. I look forward to the day that I can return.”
Her family, friends, neighbors, this entire community, are looking forward to that day also.