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Columbus Businessman Struggles To Be Citizen Keep Family Together
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Ohioans living here without permanent documents wait to see if Congress will pass immigration reform in 2014.
Columbus business owner Jose Louis Rodriguez says he has worked in the United States since the 1990’s when he arrived illegally from Mexico. In 1996 he was deported but, Rodriguez soon returned to his American family. Now, he wants to become a citizen.
“It’s hard you know, I’ve got all my family here, my three daughters, my wife. I’ve got my own business for a long time for like 15 years,” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez got a green card and took the citizenship test at an immigration office several years ago, but when he answered that he had once been deported he was given a court date. But, his green card expires before that date.
“I just want to go into the court and we can fix the problem and you know I just worry about it, you know,” says Rodriguez.
Immigration attorney Jonathan Bartell has been working on these kinds of cases for 13 years. He says politicians need to look at streamlining the process.
“Many of these folks other than coming into the United States haven’t committed any further crimes, but yet they all live in fear. And there are a significant number of folks who were brought here as children who also live in the same fear,” says Bartell.
The number of deportations has dropped in the past 6 years in Ohio and Michigan. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE says about 4,500 people were deported last year, compared to 8,000 in 2008.
Rodriguez and his wife Ofelia Espindola remain hopeful they can stay together and work at their restaurant in north Columbus. They also own and operate a grocery store. Espindola gained citizenship in 2002. She says this is her home now.
“And I have my three daughters born here. I have my own business. It’s my husband and me- the businesses,” says Espindola.
Espindola and Rodriguez are pinning their hopes on federal lawmakers.
An Immigration Reform bill is currently stalled. Some steps have already been taken to make it easier to get citizenship.
President Obama has pushed for what’s called the Dream Act as part of immigration reform. It would allow young people who grew up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, if they meet certain standards.
Those who do not come under the proposed Dream Act, like Rodriguez, would go through a process that includes completing a background check, paying taxes and a penalty and waiting in line behind those already there before getting citizenship.
Rodriguez says he won’t give up.
“My lawyer told me we got a couple more years to wait, maybe the law will change. And we can go in there and maybe can fix the problem before the court date,” says Rodriguez.
Until then, Rodriguez and his wife say they must tell their story as they keep working on their American dream.