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Divided by deportation: A family's last chance to reunite




Carol sifts through copies of paperwork filed to bring back her parents.
Carol sifts through copies of paperwork filed to bring back her parents.
KPCC/Lori Galarreta

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Eleven years ago, 16-year-old Orange County resident Carol Romo was faced with a challenge that would be a handful for someone well beyond her years. Her family woke up to a knock on the door from immigration officials.  They detained her father, and soon he was sent back to Mexico.

Carol's mother and siblings followed a few months later. But she was determined to stay, so she moved in with relatives:

"It was, I think one of the toughest decisions I've made. I had to decide either my future or I tag along and who knows what I'll end up doing in Mexico."

Carol's parents had lived in the U.S. for 20 years before they were deported.  Now, they hope to return...someday.

When we first met Carol a year ago, she was beginning a petition process that would allow her mom and dad to live in the U.S., legally. We checked in with her again to see how it's been going.

The waiting game

Romo explained she filed that last of the paperwork to bring back her parents about three weeks ago. Now, she's just waiting to hear back.

"This was submitted at the end of February and they should get back to us in about three months to let us know, 'Yes, here is your appointment for your interview.'

Once they do get that interview, that's where they decide whether they are able to come back or they have to stay in Mexico forever..."

So for the past few weeks, Romo and her sisters have just been waiting. If her parents are denied an interview, then the family can appeal the decision but if they're granted an interview, everything will then begin to move more quickly. Currently, the family isn't quite sure about how they should feel.

"My mom is at a point where she says that, if they get their residency she wouldn't really know where to start, just because they've been gone for such a long time. It's been more than 10 years.

My dad is at a point where he says, 'Okay, if they give me my residency back, cool. If they don't, cool,' so he's like in the middle."

An overwhelming procedure

And while the family continues the next step, Romo explained the process to bring her parents back has been incredibly tedious.

"If you don't know what to write in the application...by one little mistake they do can throw off the entire process. 

So, you have to make sure that you have the correct information for everything like the date that they come in the U.S., the dates that they left, where they live, where they work, who they worked for...I mean literally, you have to be super detailed and specific. You miss one thing, like I said, it will throw off the entire process..."

Romo detailed poring over paperwork at the immigration lawyer's office while speaking on the phone to her mother in Mexico. Together, mother and daughter would go through each question and answer on the forms to verify they had the same information.

Lori Galarreta/KPCC

The price of returning to the U.S.

And while the stress of the paperwork weighed heavily on the family, so did the financial burden.

"Everything we've accomplished is from our own pocket. Like my sister's and I we're all pitching in to apply for these things because one application costs $450...and I mean that's for two...plus the fees that the lawyer will charge...

I mean roughly, the entire process would cost us maybe about...I don't know...$7,000. My sister's and I, we all combine our income and we're able to bring them back, but I think that if we didn't...I don't know what we would do."

One year from now...

The Romo family in happier times.
The Romo family in happier times.
Carol Romo

After laying out her yearlong undertaking, Romo mused what her family would do if their efforts were a success:

"If we were to check-in in about a year or so, if all goes well...we would take a family trip to Mexico DF, where the virgin Guadalupe is, to just go and pray, because my mom is very religious. So that's something that she'd be very grateful for, on top of having us as a family go to that cathedral and just thank our God for the process, that all went well. But then we're also planning to throw a party, of course...

But we haven't moved forward until we get the 'Yes, we got the residency, we'll be coming back,' then we'll get that started. For the most part right now, it's just the waiting process."

To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.