February 12, 2010
Segundo Encalada, an undocumented immigrant shipped to the United States by his parents at 17, found love with Elizabeth Drummond, a descendant of both the Mayflower pilgrims and an American Indian tribe. He became a father to her young son, and the couple married and had three more children together. But their domestic bliss was interrupted when Encalada was ordered back to Ecuador, while his wife was pregnant with their third daughter.
The couple was told that Encalada needed to obtain a visa from his birth country to return to the U.S., which would take a matter of months. Months turned into years. Still no visa. Encalada's stepson became depressed by the loss of his father figure and had to be hospitalized. Elizabeth lost her job and moved in with her father and sister. A new lawyer revealed that, actually, obtaining the visa wasn't even going to be enough -- they also needed to prove "extreme hardship," to bypass the 10-year penalty levied against someone who enters the country illegally before they can return. And then Encalada gave up on the struggle, committing suicide far away from home.
Both the U.S. and Ecuadorian officials proved extremely unhelpful in securing Encalada's return to his family, uncaring about their circumstances. This is the result of an immigration system that ignores the needs of families. Ecuador declined to issue a visa, incomprehensibly labeling a marriage that had produced three children and countless family pictures one of "convenience." They then claimed that a trip Elizabeth made to Ecuador specifically to try to secure her husband's return never happened, and that she never met with any officials. Only after Encalada's death did they suddenly become interested in hearing her claims and sorting out the mess.
Not surprisingly, she no longer saw any point in talking with them.
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