By Alicia Nieves

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — A Bucks County family is sharing their immigration struggle.

The Quakertown family says they took steps toward seeking legal status for a loved one, but their loved one is now in the process of being deported.

Anne Franco and her husband, Ludvin Franco Mendez, were married in 2013.

They have two typically impatient, but adorable, twin toddler boys, and now a little girl is on the way.

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Up until four months ago, their life seemed perfect.

“That’s our last family picture we had together,” Franco said as she glanced at a family Easter photo.

Like thousands of undocumented immigrants in this country, Franco’s husband was picked up by Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement officers in April.

Just a few months earlier, he had filed this paperwork for U.S. citizenship.

The paperwork flagged him, but it also showed he’s never committed a crime in this country, and has paid taxes for the years that he has worked here.

“We were excited, we thought we were going to get a good answer soon, but then it went the opposite way,” said Franco. “Everything has been shattered since.”

We reached out to Immigration and Customs officials. No one would go on camera, but U.S. Citizenship and immigration Services issued a statement saying, “ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.”

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A follow-up statement added there are ways undocumented people to have a pathway to citizenship without deportation. It’s complicated and done on a case-by-case basis. A typical exception is a victim of a crime, like human trafficking.

“Generally, immigrants to the United States become U.S. citizens by first becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The steps to becoming an LPR vary by category, normally by acquiring a visa through family or a job. If someone comes to the United States without a legal immigration status there may be special circumstances which allow them to remain in the United States,” the statement reads.

For example, victims of human trafficking, battered spouses, children or parents and victims of other crimes may be eligible for special T, U and VAWA visas. Additionally, USCIS works with Special Immigrant Juveniles who are here in the U.S. without legal immigration status who may need humanitarian protection because they have been abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent. USCIS also works with individuals seeking asylum, who are already in the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear. In some instances, USCIS also provides immigration benefits to those who have suffered from natural disasters. For example, USCIS worked with certain Haitian orphans paroled into the United States to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.”

Franco’s husband tried to be one of those exceptions, since he fled Guatemala out of fear he would be killed. He witnessed a friend murdered by a cop there and testified against him. His appeal was denied last Wednesday and his deportation is already underway.

“I just want to get awareness out,” said Franco. “My family is an American family. My boys are American citizens. They don’t have their dad now, and if they grow up to look back at this, what are they going to think? ‘This is our country, and they are not willing to help keep us together?’”

Franco’s husband was in this country for a decade. She says he didn’t file for citizenship, because lawyers 10 years ago told him  that since he was already here, technically, unlawfully, he was better off staying for period of 10 years and showing that he had a proven record of being a law abiding. That would work favorable for him when he applied for citizenship.

Under the current immigration enforcement, it turned out that worked against him.

This is additional information USCIS shared with Eyewitness News about pathways to citizenship:

In order to be eligible for citizenship, you must be a Green Card holder (a lawful permanent resident). In order to apply for a Green Card, you have to be eligible.

There are specific categories under which individuals may apply for a Green Card. These categories include:

·         Green Card through Family (immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, another relative under the family-based preference category, or fiancé)

·         Green Card through Employment

·         Green Card as a Special Immigrant (there are a number of categories including religious worker and international broadcaster)

·         Green Card through Refugee or Asylee Status

·         Green Card for Human Trafficking and Crime Victims

·         Green Card for Victims of Abuse

To qualify for a Green Card, you must be admissible to the United States. Reasons why you may be inadmissible are listed in INA 212(a) and are called grounds of inadmissibility. These include:

Sec. 212. [8 U.S.C. 1182]

(a) (6) (A)   ALIENS PRESENT WITHOUT admission or parole.-

(i) In general.-An alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled, or who arrives in the United States at any time or place other than as designated by the Attorney General, is inadmissible.

In general, USCIS can only approve your Green Card application if none of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to you.

If you are inadmissible, the law may allow you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. See Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility and Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal. If a waiver or other form of relief is granted, USCIS may approve your application for a Green Card if you are otherwise eligible.

Whether a waiver or other form of relief is available depends on the specific inadmissibility ground(s) that applies to you and the category you are adjusting under. Eligibility requirements for waivers and other forms of relief vary.

USCIS offers customer guides for individual in a variety of situations. You can find them all at this link. For example, some with non-immigrant status (on a temporary visa) can look at this guide about changing to another non-immigrant status. But all of these include the requirement that the applicant was lawfully admitted into the United States as a non-immigrant.

Every case is different. You should also know that if someone is facing removal, the process is different. In the case of someone facing removal, the individual would pursue their case before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which is part of the Department of Justice.

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