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Kathryn41

"Illegal" status of Army Spouses Often Leads to Snags

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Canada
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Illegal Status of Army Spouses Often Leads to Snags

BY JULIA PRESTON Published: May 7, 2010

http://www.nytimes.c....html?th&emc=th

Lt. Kenneth Tenebro enlisted in the armed forces after the Sept. 11

terrorist attacks, signing up even before he became an American citizen.

He served one tour of duty in Iraq, dodging roadside bombs, and he would

like to do another. But throughout that first mission, he harbored a fear he

did not share with anyone in the military. Lieutenant Tenebro worried that his

wife, Wilma, back home in New York with their infant daughter, would be

deported.

Wilma, who like her husband was born in the Philippines, is an illegal

immigrant.

"That was our fear all the time," Lieutenant Tenebro said. When he called

home, "She often cried about it," he said. "Like, hey, what's going to happen?

Where will I leave our daughter?"

Immigration lawyers and Department of Homeland Security officials say that

many thousands of people in the military have spouses or close relatives who

are illegal immigrants. Many of those service members have fought to gain legal

status for their family members — only to hit a legal dead end created in 1996,

when Congress last made major revisions to the immigration laws.

Today the issue is not only personal. "It is an issue of readiness for the

American armed forces," says Representative Zoe Lofgren, the Democrat from

California who leads the House subcommittee on immigration. "We have many

Americans who are afraid to deploy."

Lieutenant Tenebro would like to make a career in the military, including

new missions to Iraq or Afghanistan, but for now he is not stepping forward for

an overseas deployment. "Our situation has kept me at bay because of the

constant worry that something might happen to my family while I am away," he

said.

With the debate over illegal immigration sharpening after a tough law passed

in Arizona, immigration lawyers said the Tenebros' case illustrates legal

obstacles that have stopped immigrants from becoming legal even when they could

qualify.

"We have made it impossible for many illegal immigrants to become legal," said

Charles Kuck, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta who was 2009 president of the

American Immigration Lawyers Association, the national bar.

Many lawmakers say that existing penalties have helped curb illegal

immigration and, if anything, should be increased.

Like Lieutenant Tenebro, many soldiers, anticipating rebuke and possibly

damage to their careers, do not reveal to others in the military their family

ties to immigrants here illegally.

"You will always hear the jokes about those who crossed the border,"

Lieutenant Tenebro said. "Even though we think we did everything legally

possible, it's just not knowing what other people will think. Maybe they will

find ways to hit you, without knowing the whole facts."

Lieutenant Tenebro, 35, an Army officer now stationed at Fort Dix, N.J.,

said he decided to tell his story publicly for the first time after lawyers

advised Mrs. Tenebro that she had little hope of being approved to remain here

as a legal resident without a change in immigration law. He risks drawing the

attention of his commanders and the immigration authorities to his wife's

illegal status.

Mrs. Tenebro is snagged on a statute, notorious among immigration lawyers,

that makes it virtually impossible for her to become a legal resident without

first leaving the United States and staying away for 10 years.

Because of the Catch-22, the severe penalty applies to Mrs. Tenebro even

though she is the wife of an American citizen who is also an active duty

serviceman. Lieutenant Tenebro, who was never in the United States illegally,

was naturalized in 2003.

The legal boomerang that snared her and many others was created in 1996,

when Congress imposed automatic restrictions on illegal immigrants, barring

them from returning for periods of 3 to 10 years after they leave the country,

regardless of whether they were deported or left voluntarily. However, in many

cases the law also requires immigrants who are approved for legal documents to

complete their paperwork at American consulates in their home countries.

The Tenebros' immigration troubles began with a moonstruck romance. They met

one weekend five years ago while Wilma was on vacation in New York at the end

of a job as a housekeeper on a cruise ship. She did not return to the

Philippines, and eventually she overstayed her visa.

Love led to marriage, and their daughter, who is now 3, and an expensive

battle to gain legal status for Mrs. Tenebro, 37.

In 2008, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the

federal agency, gave Mrs. Tenebro approval to become a legal permanent

resident, as the spouse of an American citizen. In general, immigration law is

intended to make it easy for foreigners who marry citizens to become legal

residents.

But because of the particular visa she overstayed — known

as a crewman's visa — she is required to finish the paperwork for her green

card in the Philippines. Every one of a string of lawyers the couple consulted

— $7,000 in fees so far — gave them the same bad news: Even though Mrs. Tenebro

has qualified for a green card, if she leaves the United States to get it, she

will automatically trigger the legal bar that will block her from returning for

10 years.

In rare circumstances of severe hardship, consular officials have the

authority to grant waivers allowing spouses to return here more quickly. But

officials in Manila are known among lawyers for being especially reluctant to

give waivers.

For his wife, Lieutenant Tenebro said, the visa offered in Manila is "like

the cheese in a mousetrap. It's like, hey, come and get it! And then, swat!

They'll get you."

One lawyer after another suggested the same option, he said: "Wait until

there is a change in the language of the law."

Susan Timmons, who runs the military assistance program for the immigration

lawyers association, said there was little lawyers could do in such cases.

"If you do try to follow the law, you run into a serious problem and you won't

be able to fix your situation," Ms. Timmons said. Her program has received

hundreds of similar cases from American soldiers, she said.

Lieutenant Tenebro said he and his wife believed they were following the

rules by prolonging their courtship and waiting for several months after their

marriage in February 2007 to file for her immigration papers, so it would be

clear that their marriage was not fake.

They remember the first time a lawyer explained the decade-long separation

they could be facing. "I didn't want to show emotion, but it was like shock,"

Mrs. Tenebro said. "I was thinking, to be away from my family is hard."

Representative Lofgren and Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of

New Jersey, have proposed bills that would make it easier for spouses and close

relatives of Americans in the military to become legal residents. Those bills

are included in immigration overhaul legislation, including measures to grant

legal status to millions of currently illegal immigrants, that Democratic

Congressional leaders are preparing.

But after the furor over the Arizona law, President Obama said Wednesday

that he wanted to "begin work" on the overhaul — but not try to pass a bill —

this year. Republicans argue that the administration should concentrate on

enforcement, not on easing the law.

"Millions of individuals come to the U.S. on visas every year and don't

overstay them," said Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior

Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. "Congress has already provided for

remedies in appropriate cases, so there should be no need to change the rules."

Homeland Security officials said that in the absence of Congressional

action, they had been working quietly to fix immigration problems for American

soldiers on a case-by-case basis, using limited authorities that already exist

in law. After a preliminary review of the Tenebros' case in response to a

reporter's questions, Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said they

were working to identify legal alternatives for them.

"Keeping U.S. military families together is a vital priority," said Matt

Chandler, a Homeland Security Department spokesman.

Now, instead of a foreign mission, Lieutenant Tenebro is running a marathon

every month or so, raising money for veterans coming back with injuries. At

home on Long Island, Mrs. Tenebro, who cannot work legally, feels a chill every

time immigration news comes on the radio.

"We just have our bags packed all the time in case immigration will come

knocking on the door," Lieutenant Tenebro said "We talk about what school to

pick and what apartment to get. But it's in the Philippines.

Edited by Kathryn41

“...Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

. Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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I'd venture to guess that this situation is highly uncommon. How it can be used as a typical case to promote immigration reform remains to be seen. It's a one-in-a-ten-thousand or so case.


There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all . . . . The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic . . . . There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

President Teddy Roosevelt on Columbus Day 1915

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Canada
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I agree, I suspect that the exact situation doesn't occur that often. Basically she overstayed a visa for which there is no option to adjust status - a crewman's visa - but because she has overstayed by a significant period, she has now incurred a 10 year ban on re-entering the US so leaving to finish the paperwork is definitely going to be a problem. I found it interesting how the articles stresses 'illegal visa overstay' with the same intensity as 'illegal entry'. If she hadn't entered under that particular visa then she would be able to adjust status even with the overstay. No, I doubt there is a lot of people in this situation, especially military.


“...Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

. Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Another Member of the VJ Fluffy Kitty Posse!

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Lovely to see such support for our armed services....

I'm all for being supportive of our armed forces but saying we should allow them to be outside of the very laws they have sworn to defend is ridiculous.

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I'm all for being supportive of our armed forces but saying we should allow them to be outside of the very laws they have sworn to defend is ridiculous.

I'd read the article again then if I were you. No where does it say any US service member is "outside the law".

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I'd read the article again then if I were you. No where does it say any US service member is "outside the law".

To say that his wife should be allowed to adjust status on an overstay from a Visa which is prohibited to adjust status based only on his status as a member of the armed forces is saying he and his family don't have to abide by the same laws as the rest of us, you know the laws he swore to defend...

Allow special privileges & benefits for our service men & women oh yes, exempt them & their families from the law oh no!

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To say that his wife should be allowed to adjust status on an overstay from a Visa which is prohibited to adjust status based only on his status as a member of the armed forces is saying he and his family don't have to abide by the same laws as the rest of us, you know the laws he swore to defend...

Allow special privileges & benefits for our service men & women oh yes, exempt them & their families from the law oh no!

Why not, they already get crappy pay, live in crappy conditions, and risk their lives on a daily basis for this country. They already get certain benefits from USCIS that an ordinary citizen doesn't get and rightfully so.

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Why not, they already get crappy pay, live in crappy conditions, and risk their lives on a daily basis for this country. They already get certain benefits from USCIS that an ordinary citizen doesn't get and rightfully so.

I grew up in a military house, my father is a 28 year veteran of the Army.

Crappy Pay? Crappy Living Conditions? Where do you get this from?

My father never rose above the grade of E-6 so no Officer's salary for him but somehow he managed to support a house full of kids (5 of us). BTW, with the exception of his tour in Germany the family always lived off base.

You can't make generalizations of military life by saying living in a combat zone is living in crappy conditions as that is not the average daily conditions of the majority of our standing armed forces.

Yes they get certain benefits such as:

Expedited processing, I have no problem with moving them to the front of the line.

Living overseas doesn't interfere with residency for their LPR spouses (works the same for any Government worker stationed overseas).

Only have to meet 100% of the poverty guideline instead of 125% which makes sense when you consider how military pay is structured (not because it's crappy but because some things like housing allowance are conditional).

These make sense.

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I grew up in a military house, my father is a 28 year veteran of the Army.

Crappy Pay? Crappy Living Conditions? Where do you get this from?

My father never rose above the grade of E-6 so no Officer's salary for him but somehow he managed to support a house full of kids (5 of us). BTW, with the exception of his tour in Germany the family always lived off base.

You can't make generalizations of military life by saying living in a combat zone is living in crappy conditions as that is not the average daily conditions of the majority of our standing armed forces.

Yes they get certain benefits such as:

Expedited processing, I have no problem with moving them to the front of the line.

Living overseas doesn't interfere with residency for their LPR spouses (works the same for any Government worker stationed overseas).

Only have to meet 100% of the poverty guideline instead of 125% which makes sense when you consider how military pay is structured (not because it's crappy but because some things like housing allowance are conditional).

These make sense.

If its effecting deployment than obviously its in the interest of the US to help out service men and woman.

The article states that some of these people want to deploy to Afghanistan. Of course if you deploy to Germany or Korea life isn't that bad. But you can't say the same things about the current conflict areas.

By the way just because your father "got by" doesn't mean he wasn't receiving crappy pay.

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I grew up in a military house, my father is a 28 year veteran of the Army.

Crappy Pay? Crappy Living Conditions? Where do you get this from?

My father never rose above the grade of E-6 so no Officer's salary for him but somehow he managed to support a house full of kids (5 of us). BTW, with the exception of his tour in Germany the family always lived off base.

You can't make generalizations of military life by saying living in a combat zone is living in crappy conditions as that is not the average daily conditions of the majority of our standing armed forces.

Yes they get certain benefits such as:

Expedited processing, I have no problem with moving them to the front of the line.

Living overseas doesn't interfere with residency for their LPR spouses (works the same for any Government worker stationed overseas).

Only have to meet 100% of the poverty guideline instead of 125% which makes sense when you consider how military pay is structured (not because it's crappy but because some things like housing allowance are conditional).

These make sense.

:thumbs: I completely agree being a daughter of an army officer and a sister of one too and now married to an E6 in the US army. There is no excuse for being ignorant of the laws and allowing yourself to get in the situation that the above mentioned wife did.

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If its effecting deployment than obviously its in the interest of the US to help out service men and woman.

The article states that some of these people want to deploy to Afghanistan. Of course if you deploy to Germany or Korea life isn't that bad. But you can't say the same things about the current conflict areas.

By the way just because your father "got by" doesn't mean he wasn't receiving crappy pay.

Dad didn't just "get by", he lived within his means, owned a few homes along the way (once even retained a house after POS, rented it out for many years & sold at a profit) and drove good solid new cars. This of course was after he married his third wife who straightened out his relationship with money.

By your logic, "its effecting deployment" I guess we should forgive DUI convictions and anything that would make a soldier "unavailable" for deployment?

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Dad didn't just "get by", he lived within his means, owned a few homes along the way (once even retained a house after POS, rented it out for many years & sold at a profit) and drove good solid new cars. This of course was after he married his third wife who straightened out his relationship with money.

By your logic, "its effecting deployment" I guess we should forgive DUI convictions and anything that would make a soldier "unavailable" for deployment?

A DUI is a misdemeanor. An overstayed visa is a civil infraction.

You be the judge.

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A DUI is a misdemeanor. An overstayed visa is a civil infraction.

You be the judge.

It doesn't matter; civil or criminal, they are the laws of our land and when he took his oath he swore to defend them not to violate them with reckless abandon.

BTW, I guess the "civil infraction" means that all married US Service men should be exempt from overseas deployment because their wives depend on them to mow the lawn and most municipalities have civil ordnances regulating allowed grass height.

Edited by Bob 4 Anna

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