Immigrant Family Forced to Live Apart Due to US Immigration Policy
TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Agustin Portillo checks the oil in his wife’s car, stores her luggage in her trunk and then drives her from his apartment in Tijuana to the U.S. border entry port because she is too afraid to maneuver the twisting streets of this sprawling, violent city by herself.
As they wait in the hours-long checkpoint line, he kisses and holds her hand. A romantic ballad comes on the radio and he sings to her softly. She responds with a smile.
When they are nearly at the border checkpoint, Agustin signs. He kisses his wife and steps out of the car. This is as far as he can go. After 20 years of living with his wife in Los Angeles, he is stuck here, on the wrong side of the fence.
Love, it turns out, does not conquer all, especially when it comes to U.S. immigration law.
“To see your family go and you can’t go with them, it breaks your heart,” he said.
It’s a common misconception that an illegal alien married to a U.S. citizen is immediately granted “green card” status or citizenship. But Ana and Agustin, and thousands of couple like them, know the truth.
Ana, 60, is an immigrant from El Salvador who was allowed to become a U.S. citizen because of her homeland’s war-torn past. She has a son who is a legal resident in Las Vegas and another son who is an illegal immigrant in Los Angeles. Her three grandchildren were born in the United States.
Agustin, 49, is an illegal immigrant from Mexico without much money, an unattractive candidate for legal status under U.S. immigration law.
They can live together in one of the poor, violence-plagued nations that they fled decades ago, or they can live like this, divided by a man-made border, desperate for the U.S. government to bless their marriage and unite their lives once again.