In two separate but likely coordinated attacks this Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexican drug cartels gunned down a US consular officer and her husband, and in the second incident the husband of a US consulate employee was killed. Although the investigation is still ongoing these two killing targeting workers at the US consulate are a brazen reminder of the increasing dangerous of Mexican cartels as well as the dangers facing those living in and travelling to Ciudad Juarez. In response to the shooting the US reissued and strengthened a Travel Warning advising US citizens not to travel to various parts of Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez. Unfortunately while US citizens are told to stay away from Juarez, the Department of State requires all potential immigrants applying for their Legal Permanent Residency (green card) from inside Mexico to travel there for their Visa interviews. Intending immigrants have been targeted for robberies, and due to lengthy processing times, are often forced to spend months or years in the city simply waiting for their cases to be adjudicated.
Of particular concern are those individuals waiting for the consulate to process Waivers that are now needed for a spouse of a US citizen who has been living in the US illegally to get Legal Permanent Residency. A grant of a waiver requires that the individual show that their US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident spouse would suffer extreme hardship if they are not allowed to return to the US. Worldwide these types of waiver can take anywhere from six months to two years to process. All the while with the family back in the US without the support and care of their immigrant family member.
In 2007 the Department of State made an important step to address the lengthy wait times in Juarez. However, what was a ground breaking program aimed at providing same day turn around for these individuals has fallen back. Where people used to be able to submit necessary follow up paperwork the day of the interview, they must now wait several months to do so. In addition, fewer of these waivers are being approved through the same day adjudication process and are sent to secondary processing which continues to take years.
Although Comprehensive Immigration Reform is vital to our nation’s future, the Department of State and Citizenship and Immigration Services must address the programs we already have in place. Same day adjudication for extreme hardship waiver applications would relieve American families from the stress of long wait times and forcing these individuals to stay for extended indeterminate amounts of time in what is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
See the New York Times article on the shooting here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/world/americas/15juarez.html?scp=1&sq=juarez&st=cse