MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A worst nightmare is coming true for a Maryville family who says they’ve been taken advantage of by immigration lawyers for money.
“I came here trying to make things right. Not for this. This is so hard for my girls and for me and for my wife.” said Vicente Saldana.
Saldana is not a U.S. citizen; he’s considered an EWI, which stands for Entered Without Inspection. He doesn’t have a green card or a visa, but he’s lived in the U.S. since 1998.
He went back to Mexico in 2003 for his grandmother’s funeral and stayed for two weeks. Two years later, he moved to Tennessee. He’s been married for 10 years and has five daughters.
He and his wife Alicia went back to Mexico last week for a citizenship interview. That’s when he learned he wouldn’t be getting citizenship and was banned from entering the U.S. for 10 years.
“Lawyers helped build this extreme hardship. They told us there’s nothing we can do,” said Alicia Saldana.
The family says the Florida-based law firm told them not to mention Saldana’s 2003 trip to Mexico. Now, they’re saying the advice cost him his citizenship.
“Ever since then, literally our family has been in like a state of mourning,” said Judy Saldana, Alicia’s mother.
Vicente and Alicia Saldana are currently in Mexico with their 8-week-old daughter Dolly, who they say was named after Dolly Parton. Alicia Saldana says that shows just how much Tennessee means to her husband.
An immigration attorney, not specifically familiar with the details of Saldana’s case, says he advises to always include everything in an application, good and bad.
“It’s not necessarily a fatal issue. If it had been mentioned in the original application – and I’m not saying it wasn’t, cause I don’t know specifically his case – but if it was in his application and if there was waiver form of 601 filed with that, that ground of miscibility could potentially have been waived beforehand and that could have avoided this family some heartache,” said Charles Carpenter, an immigration attorney in Maryville.
Carpenter says it’s impossible for someone that’s not specifically trained in immigration law to keep up with the changes. That’s why, he says, to get a lawyer that understands the laws.
“Any attempt to use fraudulent information or falsified documents or any kind of nefarious activity to obtain benefits from the United States renders you ineligible. Period,” said Carpenter.
The Saldanas’ family and friends started a petition online that they hope President Trump sees. They say they’ve reached out to their elected officials for help.