After 27 years in the United States Cristina Perrone and her husband, SAMSUNGPablo Perrone, are finally obtaining lawful permanent residency (LPR) status. The Employee Rights Center and the Law Office of Sarah Loftin have been representing Cristina and Pablo pro bono since 2009. The family got Cristina’s application fees for LPR status and her application is “in the works.” It is truly a “Happy New Year” for the Perrone family, our Center and Attorney Sarah Loftin!

With the administrative reforms enacted by President Obama this fall, millions more immigrants will have the opportunity to avoid the threat of deportation that has faced the Perrone family. Our Center, along with many others in the San Diego area, will be working to gather the resources needed to ensure that everyone who is eligible for the new expanded D.A.C.A and D.A.P.A programs can become secure from deportation and harsh family separations.

Pablo and Cristina’s Story:

In December, 1987, Pablo and Cristina fled their home country of Uruguay and crossed the border into the United States. After entry they immediately claimed asylum due to persecution they had experienced in Uruguay for their active involvement in labor union organizing. The attorney they retained presented their cases after simply meeting with them in a restaurant for approximately 20 minutes; however, she assured them that this was sufficient time in which to prepare their cases. The immigration judge denied their asylum cases and their attorney submitted a notice of appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

While the appeal was pending the Department of Justice lost their case files for over 10 years, keeping their cases in legal limbo for a decade! During this time, Pablo and Cristina diligently sought to obtain information about their pending cases. In total, they approached over 35 private attorneys and nonprofit organizations desperately trying to learn what had happened with their case, however, each one told them there was no legal recourse available. Pablo and Cristina even approached immigration authorities with the Department of Homeland Security in San Diego to inquire about their legal status and their pending case, but no one was able to explain what had happened with their appeal. They were told that there was nothing for them to do but wait. So they waited and built a family life as best they could as so many other immigrants do.

In 1998 the Department of Justice located the lost files and finally forwarded them to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Without any legal brief from Pablo and Cristina’s former attorney, the Board summarily affirmed the denial of their asylum claims. Pablo and Cristina never received notice of the decision. In October 2008, during a workplace raid in San Diego County, California, Pablo was detained by immigration authorities. His family retained representation and he was released on bond. His attorney then charged Pablo over $3,000 to file a frivolous appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Pablo and his family lost all of their savings paying for the legal fees in the case. On September 15, 2009, Pablo received a notice to appear for deportation on September 29, 2009. Fortunately a community agency in San Diego found Pablo and referred him to the Employee Rights Center (ERC) where Sarah Loftin was working as the Center’s immigration attorney. She investigated their cases, with all its ups and downs, and determined that their only hope was to seek relief from a Congressional “private bill”, which would specifically refer to their situation and seek temporary relief to buy us more time.

Recognizing the injustices and government errors surrounding here, and the unavailability of any current legal remedy for their situation, former Congressman Bob Filner, in collaboration with the ERC, introduced private bill H.R. 4460 in January 2010 on behalf of Pablo and Cristina. In the first victory they were granted a temporary emergency stay of deportation. In January of 2011, former Congressman Filner re-introduced the bill, H.R. 355, and the emergency stay of removal was renewed. However, the bill ultimately never made it past the House Subcommittee, and Pablo and Cristina were again faced with imminent deportation. But they were not finished!

In November 2012 Pablo and Cristina’s U.S. citizen daughter, Loredana, turned 21 and we immediately filed a family-based petition for Pablo and Cristina. Both petitions were approved! Based on the approved petitions and the exceptional humanitarian circumstances of the case, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Chief Counsel agreed to join us in a motion to reopen the former deportation proceedings and terminate the prior order of deportation.

Without that order of deportation the Perrones gained time to file for legal permanent status. But millions of other immigrants just as deserving as the Perrones face the threat of deportation and the harsh separation of families that only serves to break down our local communities. Even without true immigration reform these families need the administrative relief now available.

Pablo and Cristina’s deep roots in our community:

Pablo and Cristina have a long history of volunteer work in our community and are active members of their church, as well as various local non- profit organizations. Despite facing severe economic hardship since 2008, the Perrones have never sought public assistance and instead have worked hard to support their family and have paid taxes for each year they have lived in the U.S. Even facing homelessness in 2008 the Perrones have managed to raise two outstanding U.S. citizen daughters, Loredana and Victoria, ages 22 and 19. Loredana recently graduated from San Diego State University and Victoria is now in college. As highly educated adults, Loredana and Victoria look forward to their futures and careers here in the U.S..