In 2009 I was arrested for having less than 20 downloaded pictures of underage girls in my computer. My arrest was a symptom of my out of control life and drug problem that I have since corrected. I accepted full responsibility and decided to turn my life around. I have been clean and sober ever since.
When this happened they didn’t immediately file charges and they let me out after a couple of days. Once I was out I hired a lawyer and waited for charges to be filed. Two years later nothing had happened and since I couldn’t find a job I decided to move back with my family in South America to help with the family business. My lawyer said it was ok since I had no charges against me. So I moved back and while I was out of the country I met the love of my life. We were dating and I was working with my family’s business, I had cleaned up my act and things were looking up. Then I found out from my lawyer that charges had finally been filed against me. After the initial shock I realized that I knew this might happen and that I should man up and face the music. I am a proud American (I was born and raised by my mom here in the USA but she eventually went back to her country) and the idea of me just not coming back to my country was not something I was willing to entertain.
So I came back and since I had no previous criminal record I was put on probation for 5 years. And, since I live in California, I am required to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life even though my risk assessment is very low risk.
I kept in touch with my then girlfriend throughout the whole ordeal and she became my rock and kept me motivated to get through the horrible experience of being alone and in trouble with the law. She basically helped me survive the most difficult part of my life. She was my emotional support and my motivator and she really helped me get through it. Sometimes difficult situations make you realize what love really is.
During this time I realized that I wanted to marry her and be with her the rest of my life. But I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure what the legal implications were. So I went to an immigration lawyer and told him my situation. His response: “your criminal history has no bearing on family petitions”.
When I came out of that meeting I was so happy!! I immediately called her and asked her if she would marry me. She said yes!! We were so happy. The plan that my lawyer and I came up with was to marry her during a trip that I had already planned for Christmas. I had gotten permission from court to travel back for Christmas to be with my family so it was the perfect time to marry her. I did that and when I got back I submitted the I-130 and we figured she would be here in 6 months to a year. During all of this I somehow even managed to get a good job. I was saving money, my wife was on her way, I was clean and sober and happy. Things were once again looking up.
So…. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell anyone here what happened next. But in one word, NOTHING. Nothing happened for a year and I started to do my own research – something I should have done before, I know. But I figured an immigration lawyer would know and I just trusted him.
Anyway, I was horrified. There it was in black and white. I am not allowed to do a family petition and the waiver had virtually no chance of success. My lawyer didn’t believe me at first but eventually realized his mistake and offered me a partial refund.
At this point I’ve been away from my wife for over 4 years. Since I haven’t had any problems or violations since my probation started, I am applying for early termination so that I can go back and be with her there. But now we have International Meghan’s Law. Even though I haven’t had any issues traveling before I am scared that I will now. And if I do have a problem, the combination of these two laws will effectively separate me from my wife for good. Not to mention my family and friends in that country. My grandmother is too old to travel so will I ever see her again? What if she gets sick? What about the woman that I love???? Am I really going to have to tell her after all this time, “sorry baby I love you but you should move on without me”? Why are they doing this to us? Why are they doing this to HER? We are completely and absolutely devastated.
I’ll end this by saying this: at it’s core this Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Keeping me separated indefinitely from my wife and family even after I pay my debt to society is about as cruel as it gets. Please, please, please someone do something to change these laws so that I can be together with the love of my life. Thank you.