(WXYZ) - The search for the American Dream has turned into a nightmare for one local family
While there are thousands of illegal immigrants living in the US under the cloak of darkness, a West Bloomfield husband and wife who tried to do the right thing ended up torn apart.
If you look at pictures of Manuel and Nikki Quintanilla they look like the average American family. They have two kids - Brandon and Jaiden. They both coach their kids’ soccer team and volunteer at their school for everything imaginable.
There's only one major problem. Manuel, who is 34, is from Mexico. He came here to America illegally when he was only 19. He couldn't even speak English
“They just didn't know any better when you're not educated, you don't know, you don't know the laws, you don't know anything except for what's on the other side of that wall,” says Nikki.
They were in search of the American dream. Manuel grew up in Leon, one of Mexico's poorest and most dangerous cities.
“He came here to America to have a better life, he grew up very poor,” says Nikki. “He's been working since he was 6-year-old.
Manuel met Nikki who is 36 ten years ago while they both worked at a local restaurant. They began dating and have been together for 7 years. Their son Brandon was born six years ago. He didn't really worry about deportation.
Nikki says he though, “Why would they even look at me? I'm not a criminal, I'm not stealing, I'm not selling drugs, I'm just working here why would they even look for me?”
Then, two years ago, they hired an attorney to start the process of him to become a legal citizen.
“His dream was to be an American citizen,” Nikki says. “That's all he wanted.”
Nikki says they had to complete 3 steps: First file a petition to the government - it was approved.
Next file an affidavit saying he would not apply for welfare.
“What we thought was the final step was the immigration interview and so we had waited for a year and a half for this interview,” Nikki says.
The interview was in Mexico - no attorney or family member was allowed to be present.
“He answered their questions as best he could and the next thing you know they shut the window and when she opened it back up she said there's no waiver for you,” Nikki says.
In January of this year he was told he was banned from America - for life.
“He said ‘what about my children, what about my wife,’ and she said ‘they can come visit you,’ can you imagine if someone told you you couldn't see your children, how do you cope, how do you react?” Nikki says.
Proposed changes would allow illegal immigrants with American family members applying for legal residency to get a green card here in the US rather than in the immigrant's home country - that way family members would not remain separated for years on end.
Nikki has contacted Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Governor Snyder and President Obama.
I asked, “Did they give you any glimmer of hope?”
“No, no,” she says.
“When was the last time your little boy saw his father?” I ask.
“He hasn't seen his dad in over 5 months and I don't know when he'll be back and my son keep asking me when is daddy going to come home and I don't know what to tell him,” Nikki says.
We spoke to Manuel from Mexico by Skype.
“I am keeping my hopes up. I have faith in the Lord and good family over there doing everything they can to get me back,” he says.
Nikki's mother Cindi Zemple believes Manuel deserves a second chance.
“He went there voluntarily to do everything right and they have to look at each case individually and see there needs to be some reform,” Cindi says.
“At the end of the day what do you want to see happen?” I ask Nikki.
“I came to you because I gotta hope at the end of the day. We did the right thing at the end of the day. As Americans, we're human beings. We have no compassion for my husband and families like mine? Come on this is the United States,” she says.
We contacted Governor Snyder's officer. We were told this is a federal issue not a state issue and that Nikki would be better off contacting her Congressional delegation because they have the ability to assist much more than on the state level.
We also contacted Senator Debbie Stabenow's office and we were told Nikki already received a letter of response saying they're looking into the matter.
We have yet to hear back from Senator Carl Levin's office.
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