Local officials called for the federal government to reconsider a woman’s request to enter the United States to see her dying husband in Tucson one last time.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva sent a request Wednesday to the secretary of Homeland Security asking her to intervene and reconsider the case of Gloria Arellano, who was denied a temporary visit she requested on humanitarian grounds.
Grijalva spoke during a news conference Thursday alongside Arellano’s son Bill de la Rosa, one of her four children who are all U.S. citizens.
“Collectively, as a country, we are going through this divisive, ugly, non-ending debate and struggle around the issue of immigration and the border,” said Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat. “And what Bill and his family are asking is for in the middle of all this is a sliver of compassion, a humanitarian action.”
Friends of the family, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero and Tucson Unified School District board member Adelita Grijalva were also present to express their support. An online petition, launched Wednesday, has already generated more than 7,600 signatures.
De la Rosa and his mother went to the port of entry in Nogales Tuesday with a letter from a health center saying Arsenio de la Rosa, 85, has only a few weeks to live.
After roughly a five-hour wait, an officer processing the request told them her application for a temporary permit to come back to the United States had been rejected because she was denied legal permanent residency in 2009. “He apologized and said it wasn’t up to him, it was up to his boss’s boss,” de la Rosa, a 24-year-old graduate student, said then.
Arellano has lived in Nogales, Sonora since 2009, when she was barred from the United States for 10 years after being denied a green card because she had crossed into the country without status after overstaying a visa.
Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday they couldn’t comment on individual cases, but that granting such requests is a matter of discretion and there’s no inherent right to being granted temporary admission.
When a person applies for such a pass at the port of entry, customs officers look at the available information before them and weigh it against any previous criminal and immigration violations, according to the written statement, as well as the person’s ties to country of origin and the likelihood that they would stay in the U.S. illegally.
Mo Goldman, a Tucson immigration attorney, said a 10-year ban does not automatically preclude Arellano from being allowed into the country temporarily under certain circumstances.
Arellano had been allowed in temporarily in 2011 to help care for her husband when he had a stroke.
“We have this in place, this option for individuals and our government to consider specifically for situations like this where somebody has complied with the law since they had original finding facing 10-year bar, where you have positive factors all over the place including the fact that her children are U.S. citizens and are all good kids, from my understanding great students as well,” Goldman said.
She doesn’t have a criminal history and “is not a national security risk,” Goldman said.
“If you look at all factors, I don’t see why she’s not permitted to come in for a week or two weeks to spend a little time with him where he may no longer be on this earth,” he said.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Bill said of the years after the separation. But each of the four siblings have taken on more responsibilities to care for each other and their elderly father.
The eldest, Jim, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after high school because he wanted to serve his country and help his family. But after four years, he had to come home and help care for his father as Bill went off to college.
Naomi started her first semester of college after graduating in May from Pueblo High School. She was 9 when her mother was banned from the country and she had to step up and take care of the house and her younger brother Bobby, who is now in middle school.
And Bill is starting his second master’s degree at the University of Oxford in England. “We haven’t done it alone,” he said, “but it has been a difficult ride to say the least.”
“His mom just wants to be here to be able to console and assure her children and say good- bye to her husband,” said Adelita Grijalva, a long-time friend of the family.
“While successful individually, it’s a broken heart that’s not going to be easy to repair,” she said as de la Rosa’s eyes welled with tears behind her.
“I’m a person of faith,” de la Rosa said, adding he believes the only reason his father is still hanging on is for his little brother Bobby and to see his wife again.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we ask, as the congressman said, for a sliver of hope and opportunity just for this, for us to come together ... one final time.” he said.