Good news for Rifle man whose family is stuck in Mexico
After months of separation because of bad immigration advice from a previous attorney and with his youngest son needing intensive health care, Alberto Chavez-Tena of Rifle heard Thursday that he may soon be reunited with his family.
Chavez-Tena’s wife, Irene Caraveo Flores, and two young sons, the youngest of whom is at risk because of short-limbed dwarfism, are stuck in Mexico. Chavez-Tena is a permanent U.S. resident and the boys are citizens. Caraveo Flores was trying to gain residency when the previous lawyer failed to send a critical waiver form.
Local advocates involved in the case through the Association of Youth United in Action, Yesenia Arreola and Anahi Araiza, received a call Thursday afternoon from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office with word that Caraveo Flores’ case would be expedited. If everything works, Chavez-Tena will see his wife and children in a few weeks, the family’s new lawyer said.
It’s critical that 18-month-old Daniel return to the United States, his Grand Junction doctor said in a letter that’s part of the case file, because he needs regular check-ups with several specialists. Medical workers trained Caraveo Flores to tend to Daniel around the clock, and Chavez-Tena works too much to be able to care for the children, including 4-year-old Diego.
Fred Hartman, a Glenwood Springs attorney now representing the family, said he had not gotten a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirming that Caraveo Flores’ waiver had been approved, which an online system indicates.
“We want to wait for the letter in the mail” to be sure, he said, adding that he expected it to arrive Monday.
Caraveo Flores, who is staying in her hometown, a small village, will need to return to the consulate in Ciudad Juarez and likely needs an updated medical exam before being issued an immigrant visa, he said.
He credited the advocates’ efforts in the case, which included an online petition; the office of Bennet, D-Colorado; and media attention, including the Post Independent story of June 26, with helping raise the profile of the case, which is among thousands awaiting waiver approval.
Arreola, who is Colorado Mountain College’s youth outreach coordinator, said that after hearing from Bennet’s office, she sent a text to Chavez-Tena to call her, but excitement got the better of her. Araiza, Arreola and Sophia Clark of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition decided to surprise Chavez-Tena at his job — doing paving work on Highway 133. After calling his boss, the women drove near Chavez-Tena’s workplace with a car full of balloons searching for him.
When they broke the news that his wife’s waiver had been approved and she would be coming back in a few weeks, Arreola said Chavez-Tena was in shock.
“I think it took him maybe a minute,” Arreola said.
“We said, ‘Yeah, we finally got the call from Sen. Bennet’s office and she’s been approved,’” Araiza said. “I think it was then he just kind of broke down.”
The advocates said they celebrated with him on the side of the road, with hugs, tears and few words.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry I can’t talk. I’m just so broken down with my emotions,’” Arreola said of Chavez-Tena’s reaction.
Arreola and Araiza said they were excited to hear the news, especially because they witnessed Chavez-Tena’s pain.
Arreola said this is an example of showing that the immigration system doesn’t have to be this way, advocating for people case-by-case and separating families.
“I think it’s really important to realize,” Arreola said. “It’s impacting real lives,” she said about the immigration system.
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