DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A new immigration policy expected to take effect later this year aims to stop the separation of families.
It would affect undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens.
Roberto Salas is one of thousands of immigrants in the country who could benefit. He came to the United States in search of work when he was still just a teenager.
“I have 13 years here. That’s about half my life,” the Dallas resident said. His wife, Naida, is American, and together, they have three American children.
He, however, is here illegally.
“It’s important to have my papers, because I want to live here for all my life,” he said.
As the husband of a U.S. citizen, Salas can apply for residency. But, under the current policy, he has to leave the country first and wait for a waiver from the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, a process that could take anywhere from a few months to over a year.
“That’s for this family, in particular, is something that is not affordable.
He’s the primary breadwinner for the family – and his wife, given her medical condition requires his daily assistance,” said immigration attorney Isaul Verdin.
Naida Salas suffers from depression and schizophrenia, controlled with medication. Leaving her, her husband says, isn’t an option.
“It’s hard for my family, my three kids and my wife. She doesn’t have nobody else, just me,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, though, says, it will soon allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay in the country while waiting for most of their paperwork to be processed.
They would still have to leave country, but only for a matter of weeks.
The department says the new policy would affect between 22,000 and 23,000 a year, 78 percent of which are expected to be approved.
For families, like the Salas, it could finally put legal residency in reach and end the fear they will one day be torn apart.