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How long is legal route to Utah? It could be 58 years for mom

Errors, strict rules and denied waivers keep a woman from joining family in Utah.



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It turned out that the consulate was acting on the first petition, which Corazon knew was invalid because she was married. Immigration claimed no other petition had ever been filed. "I was devastated," Corazon says.

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Try » Not knowing what else to do, Corazon’s mother sponsored a third application in 1994 and on Nov. 9, 2010, officials sent Corazon a letter saying she was finally eligible for immigration.

"I would have jumped with joy if I received this news when my mother was still alive," but Sigua had died five months earlier, Corazon says. She realized that when an immigration sponsor dies, the application expires with them.

"Rather than joy and happiness, it turned into frustrations and disappointments," she says.

A recent change in the law, says Messerly, allows immigration applicants to continue the process after the death of a sponsor — but only if the prospective legal resident already lives in the country.

"Many of those who will benefit" from that law "have been living illegally in the U.S. while waiting for the petitions to become ‘current.’ Whereas, Corazon has always faithfully left the U.S. in a timely manner, never overstaying her visitor status," he would later write to immigration officials.

And try again » Corazon applied for a humanitarian reinstatement of this application, with Messerly arguing that her troubled history of attempted legal immigration deserved consideration.

The attorney also noted that Corazon had a stroke in 2004, and "she would greatly benefit [from] being close to her siblings, many of whom are considerably younger." Additionally, he said Corazon and her husband had purchased a house in Utah and that the two had sufficient income to assure they would not be a drain on the public treasury.


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Officials denied the application.

Rosemary Langley Melville, director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Service, listed several reasons, including that Corazon "has lived in Philippines since birth and has never resided in the United States."

The denial also acknowledged Corazon’s poor health but said her application failed to establish "the unavailability of treatment in the Phillipines."

Messerly notes that Corazon has lived in Australia since 1976, so officials appear not to have read their own files. Finally, the denial said Corazon had failed to prove that the long and repeated delays in her application were the fault of the government.

"A favorable decision is to be given only to an alien when compelling factors exist. Such has not been established.... There is no appeal to this decision."

Effects » Corazon’s sister, Celeste Galbraith, describes some results of the 35-year runaround. Memories of one was prompted by a photo of the large extended family taken this past Memorial Day at the grave of a niece who died giving birth to her sixth child. Everyone is in the picture — except Corazon.

"Corazon was so brokenhearted she could not be with the family to grieve with us," Celeste says.

It brings back memories of when their mother died three years earlier.

"If they had approved [Corazon’s application] she would have been here when our mother was alive. That never happened," she said.

Instead, Corazon only occasionally visited and missed almost all of the big family gatherings every Sunday in her mother’s house in Orem — the one Corazon and her husband had purchased. "It was small. But my mother cooked dinner every Sunday, and we piled in there on top of each other, except for Corazon. We missed her."

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