Domingo is a quiet man who loves his wife and children. He is respected by his friends and greets everyone with a smile. He works hard in his job in construction and aspires to open a small business. And now, after 8 patient years, he is also a legal resident of the United States.
Domingo emigrated from Mexico in 1998 in hopes of economic opportunity. If he stayed in Mexico, he knew his job options were scare and the future he could create would be full of hardships. It was a difficult decision to leave his parents behind, but he said goodbye, not knowing it would be 23 years before they were reunited.
Domingo eventually settled in North Carolina where he met his wife, Esperanza. Esperanza was recently divorced from her abusive ex-husband and raising her children alone. They became a family and went on to have children of their own.
During this time, Domingo found himself living in fear. His wife and children were all U.S. citizens, leaving Domingo as the only undocumented person in their house. He worried about being deported and what would become of his wife and children if his undocumented status was discovered. He knew he needed stability.
Domingo and Esperanza contacted Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in 2013. Staff attorneys with our Immigrant Justice Program helped Esperanza file an I-130 petition, establishing her marital relationship with Domingo and started his process to apply for legal permanent residency. As a spouse of a U.S. citizen, Domingo was eligible to file an I-601A waiver for his unlawful entry into the U.S. in 1998, thereby enabling him to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate in Mexico. In 2018, the Advocacy Center was able to submit Domingo’s immigrant visa application, a process that was further delayed by the pandemic in 2020.
If this all sounds complicated and difficult to navigate, that’s because it is. And if you are an immigrant doing everything you can to work hard and provide for your family, it is downright terrifying.
Research has found that the probability of a positive outcome in an immigration case increases dramatically, from 5% to 95%, when an individual has legal representation. But in Charlotte, having legal representation to help guide you through this stressful, confusing process is less likely. In a recent report, only 24% of respondents in Charlotte Immigration Court had legal representation, compared to 60% nationally. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is determined to change that.
Armed with the knowledge and experience of the attorneys at the Advocacy Center, Domingo’s immigration process had a positive ending. In 2021, Domingo traveled to Mexico for the final interview of his visa process and was reunited with his family for the first time since 1998. He returned to the United Status as a legal permanent resident with feelings of safety and security he never thought possible. He looks forward to applying for his U.S. citizenship in three years.
Learn more about our Immigrant Justice Program and how we support the Charlotte immigrant community.