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Aurora family reunited after immigration battle

Updated: March 24, 2014 6:38AM

Carlos Resendiz was recently reunited with his wife and three children in Aurora after confusion over his immigration status kept him from re-entering the United States.

In an effort to gain legal citizenship in order to support his family, Carlos returned to Mexico for what he expected to be a short trip in 2012. As a result of mistaken identity, Carlos was separated from his family for 21 months.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s staff worked with the Resendiz family and immigration officials to facilitate Carlos’ return to the United States. When Carlos’ wife, Josefina, received the news her husband was returning home, she couldn’t believe it.

“(I didn’t) want to believe it. Every time we got a letter from Immigration it was bad news,” she said. “I told myself, I’ll believe it when I see him in person.”

On Thursday night, the Resendiz family got the chance to thank Durbin’s staff in person in Chicago.

“We didn’t know if it was possible,” said Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. “But (the family had) some people who really care about (them) in this office and I think they did a miracle — a ‘milagro’ as we say in Chicago.”

Border woes

Carlos Resendiz entered the U.S. from Mexico in 1994 with his father at the age of 14. The two settled in Aurora. Carlos enrolled in East Aurora school,s where he met Josefina, a U.S. citizen. The pair married and have three children — Carlos, Cassandra and Johan — who are all also U.S. citizens.

In May 2012, Carlos Resendiz returned to Mexico in order to interview for a family-based immigrant visa which would grant him legal residence in the United States, according to Durbin’s office. His family expected him to be gone only a few weeks, but Carlos’ situation took an unexpected turn for the worst.

During his interview with the Department of State in Mexico, Carlos was mistakenly identified for a “coyote,” a person who helps others illegally cross the Mexico/U.S. border, he said. Because of the mistaken identity, Carlos was barred from returning to the United States.

The charges came as a surprise, as Carlos had no criminal record apart from illegally crossing the border when he was 14.

While stuck in Mexico, Carlos worked for little pay, trying to send money home.

“He grew up here, spent 20 years here. He has no family down there,” Josefina said. “All of sudden he was guilty because of this? With no answers ... He had nobody down there. No one. He was on his own.”

‘Kept pushing’

With her husband in Mexico, Josefina, a medical assistant, said she struggled to provide for the family and suffered depression. Carlos, in Mexico, felt like his life was over.

“I didn’t want to fight for it. I thought that that was it,” Josefina said. “There was no turning it around.”

But her mother and Aurora pastors pushed Josefina to keep fighting for her family to be reunited.

“(They told me) you can’t lose hope. God is with you. Your mom is with you. You have to fight for your children,” she said.

After attempts to resolve the situation on her own failed, Josefina contacted Durbin’s office for help, she said. Staff in the senator’s office spoke with Carlos and grew concerned that another individual’s case history was wrongly attributed to him.

Over 10 months, the senator’s staff contacted officials at the highest levels of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency with jurisdiction over Carlos’ case, and were able to clear up the confusion and get Carlos on a path to U.S. citizenship.

Last week, Carlos was reunited with his family in their home on Aurora’s West Side. He said he’s looking forward to “better opportunities” in the U.S.

“I want to go back to school, and teach my kids a better way to help other people,” Carlos told Durbin in English. He’s waiting on his Social Security number so he can get a job.

“(It would have been two years) in a week. But thank God it worked out really good,” Josefina said. “It ended up nice.”

‘Good people’

The senator’s office receives 25 to 30 requests to intervene in immigration cases each week, according to Durbin’s staff.

“It’s the biggest item of business in our office… and it has been since we’ve opened the door,” Durbin said.

Better immigration laws are needed, Durbin said. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill was passed in the Senate, but a bill needs to be passed in the House, he said.

Durbin said he wants to see Immigration Reform passed in Congress this year.

“These are good people,” he said. “They will be important parts of the future in this country. And they should never have to go through this kind of tragedy.”

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