Valentine’s Day, primarily recognized as a day of love and appreciation, takes on a new meaning for couples living in fear of possible deportation.
YWCA Director of Mission Impact Jenn Carrillo said it takes a minimum of six and a half years to become a citizen.
“Our immigration system is very antiquated and very backlogged. You would need to first apply for a green card. Then you have to be a green card holder for a number of years before you can actually apply to citizenship,” said Carrillo.
Added Thalia Novoa, a Department of Justice-accredited representative for the Immigration Project: “The most harrowing experience I’ve ever had was to navigate the immigration system. But this journey is necessary to ensure you can stay with your loved ones.”
This lengthy process creates marital and familial struggles. Carrillo said the primary struggle is the risk of separation.
“It means a lot of limitations in terms of what people can make of their lives. But I think the biggest is that, if you don’t have lawful status in the states, then you’re always at risk of deportation.”
The YWCA’s mission is to promote “peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all,” and Carrillo said this is taken seriously. This mission is continued by providing help to illegal immigrants in need.
“We need to be willing to create opportunities for the folks who are lucky enough to have a pathway to citizenship, to be able to take advantage of it, to be able to have the counsel and the guidance to make it through that difficult journey, but it also means that we need to continue to fight for the people who have not been provided a pathway to citizenship.”
Last year, the Couples Day event provided six couples with consultations, helping three start immigration applications. This year, the goal is to double that.
The YWCA encourages couples to apply and make an appointment in time for Valentine’s Day at (309) 829-8703, extension 108.
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