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Local family split up due to outdated laws

Ana’s brother and mother

In a town like Salyersville, immigration reform doesn’t come up every day, but inequality in the system is hurting a Magoffin County family (and countless others) in a very big way.

Ana Raquel Martínez Merritt came to America legally two decades ago and is a United States citizen, with a husband and two children here, but she never imagined how difficult it would be to bring her mother and brother to the U.S. The journey of trying to help her family immigrate to be near her and her children has hit an impasse that highlights some major flaws in the U.S. immigration laws.

“I just fell in love with and married a good man from here and I’ve lived in the U.S. for 15 years, but I never dreamed it would be this difficult to reunite my family,” Ana said.

Ana married Nathan Merritt, from Magoffin County, and they, along with their two small children live in Salyersville, while her mother and brother still remain in Mexico. At this time, she has exhausted all legal avenues to legally bring them to the states to live near her young family.

“I met with a state representative in Louisville who confirmed everything I already knew,” Ana said. “I don’t have a law degree, but through my research and working with other lawyers, I’ve found there are a lot of gaps in the law for immigration.”

Ana is a first-generation Mexican American immigrant and U.S. citizen, wanting to petition to bring her mother and brother to the country so her children can grow up knowing her remaining close family. With the costs and difficulty of traveling with two very small children, her 7-year-old son has only met his maternal grandmother twice, and her 3-year-old only once.

“My mother has no criminal record,” Ana said. “She is not a terrorist and she’s never been arrested, but I’ve exhausted all my options. My kids don’t understand why they can’t see her, so that’s really hard. The thing is, there is a waiver for criminals, but she doesn’t qualify for that. There is an imbalance in equality for someone who wants to legally immigrate to have the same opportunity. She’s not a criminal, but if she was, we could apply with a waiver. Immigrants are not guaranteed due process.”

Her brother tried to come to the U.S. a few years ago to visit her and her family, but Ana believes he was racially profiled and coerced into saying something untrue, resulting in his deportation.

“He was coming to visit me, and they just didn’t like that he was staying a long time, but they are allowed to stay six months on a visitor’s visa,” Ana said. “Our church, the Salyersville Church of Christ, was going to have VBS and he was going to come help with that. I wrote a letter for him to keep on him stating where he was going to be and why, but it didn’t matter. They still detained him for over 24 hours without food and with accommodations that were not human. He was treated like a criminal, and he did nothing wrong. It’s just not okay.”

Because of the deportation, he is now not allowed to enter the country.

After talking with Ana, Congressman Hal Rogers’ office contacted the federal offices and she got an approved petition of an I-130, the closest they had been in two decades to getting her mother to be able to come to the U.S., but a speech barrier got in the way.

“She had an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, but the U.S. Consulate didn’t provide an interpreter and they wouldn’t look at the paperwork, so they put her down as ‘fraudulent’ because they thought she was claiming she was a U.S. citizen. The interviewer denied her for it and didn’t listen to her at all.”

With both her mother and her brother, her only remaining direct family able to travel, now listed as inadmissible, there apparently is no way of appealing these arbitrary decisions.

“People make mistakes, but there’s no checks and balances with these decisions. These employees get to make the ultimate decision and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Ana said. “It’s been half a century since immigration reform and the media doesn’t cover it, so I’m always trying to help educate people and spread awareness. I know a lot of people with relatives who can’t get to come here because of gaps in the system, and reform has been needed for a very long time. This has been very hard on us, specifically, but I know more people are having to deal with this.”

Ana is currently circulating an online petition, which she presented at the August Salyersville City Council meeting, which asks for immigration reform and for her family’s petitions to be reconsidered, with people able to electronically sign her petition by scanning the QR code in this story or by visiting https://www.change.org/p/help-reunite-my-family-9f464a27-13c6-41b4-bf09-689aa49eaed3?source_location=search.

She expressed her gratitude to the Salyersville City Council for being open to hearing about her story and the petition, also thanking the community for supporting her, as well.

“I’ve spent thousands of dollars and two decades trying to do this the right way and I don’t know what else to do, but sometimes petitions can get the attention of the right people, so that’s what I’m hoping for,” Ana said. “I just want to reunite my family.”

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. jimmierat

    September 9, 2023 at 6:42 pm

    Heaven forbid we try to help her but let any one come across the borders Scott free.

  2. James Lillis

    September 10, 2023 at 5:29 pm

    This seems like a situation that needs to be brought to the attention of our senators and your Congressman. Congressional investigations sometimes get bureaucrats to change things. Be specific so they get a specific answer, not a boilerplate response.

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