Thirteen months ago, I met Christina. Christina is a lively, colorful 70-year old woman from Mexico. She’s lived in the United States since the early 1950s and swore she was a lawful permanent resident. She had lost her green card sometime in the 1970s, and since she lived in California, the need for her to have immigration paperwork wasn’t a top priority due to different local legal requirements.
That changed in 2012 when Christina moved to Georgia. When any government official learned she wasn’t a U.S. citizen, they needed to see her green card in order to help her. No green card meant no driver’s license and no independence.
All we had was Christina’s Alien Number. We filed an I-90 asking USCIS to issue her a new green card. Seven months later, we received a denial. USCIS couldn’t find any record of her having lawful permanent resident status. Christina knew this wasn’t true, and I promised to keep fighting.
We then requested a copy of her immigration records through the Freedom of Information Act. Within two months, we had a copy of her immigration file. And we had the evidence we needed. Yes, right there in USCIS’s own records was a document from 1957 stating that she had been admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
With our new evidence in hand, we filed a Motion to Reopen. We filed without the $630 filing fee because why should Christina have to pay to have USCIS fix their mistake? The Motion was denied – not based on the merits and the evidence, but because someone in the mailroom decided that the filing fee was more important than the actual case.
We finally went through the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office. It took a few months, but we received a call from an immigration officer. At first, the officer was unconvinced that Christina was a lawful permanent resident. As he looked through the file, though, he saw the document that proved her lawful permanent residency. The case was reopened and the green card is being produced right now.
It took over a year, but with Christina’s insistence and our persistence, she will have her green card in hand within a matter of weeks!
** Names and revealing details have been changed.