I work for NYLAG, a non-profit representing low-income residents of New York City. Our organization has been representing Mirna since 2011. Mirna, a victim of horrifying domestic violence for years, reported her abuser to the police, cooperated with the authorities, and was granted a U-visa in 2013. She was subsequently able to bring one of her children to the U.S. as a derivative, but her two other children remained in Mexico. Mirna became a permanent resident in 2018 and in late 2018 filed an I-929 petition on behalf of one of her two children in Mexico (the second child was already over 21 and had therefore “aged out”). The beneficiary of the I-929 petition, M.T.S., was the victim of domestic violence and endured years of harassment by her biological father that has left her traumatized. The I-929 petition was approved in June 2019, and before the end of 2019, Mirna had filed her immigrant visa application and submitted all supporting civil and financial documentation.
We requested that the Department of State (DOS) expedite the interview, citing the fact that Mirna’s daughter was required to enter the U.S. before her 21st birthday in June and the fact that the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) requires DOS to process the application as quickly as possible. U.S. Senator Gillibrand also contacted DOS to request that the interview be expedited. But when COVID-19 shut down New York, and much of the rest of the United States in mid-March, Mirna’s daughter’s interview still had not been scheduled. After the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez suspended regular operations, we advocated for an emergency appointment, citing the age-out danger. Then on April 22, President Trump issued his Presidential Proclamation, which heavily restricted immigration for 60 days, but included a “national interest” exception.
Shortly thereafter, AILA sought potential plaintiffs for a class action challenging the Proclamation. We had our reservations about participating, confident Mirna merited a national interest exception and concerned her participation in the lawsuit could jeopardize her case. But after discussing it with Mirna, she ultimately opted to join. Meanwhile, Mirna’s daughter was eventually scheduled for an emergency appointment, but she was refused a visa at that appointment. Denying her, the officer cited the Proclamation and informed her she was otherwise eligible for a visa.
AILA, Mayer Brown, and counsel moved quickly as Mirna’s daughter would turn 21 years of age within days. The litigation team filed a temporary restraining order. Almost immediately thereafter the Assistant Secretary of State signed a national interest exception to the Proclamation for Mirna. A day later Mirna received a call requesting that she send her daughter’s passport back to the Consulate for visa issuance.
It is clear, based on the initial denial, that Mirna’s daughter would not have been granted the exception without the litigation and motion for a temporary restraining order against the Proclamation. We are immensely grateful to Mirna and her daughter for their courage and willingness to fight despite their understandable concerns and uncertainties. Mirna shared her story on a press briefing. The best news is that after a prolonged separation Mirna’s family is finally happily reunited in New York.