Finally, a Green Card After 43 Years!

Santiago*, originally from Cuba, came to Just Neighbors in 2011 wanting to file for a green card. Santiago first came to the US when he was 27 years old through Key West as part of the Mariel Boat Lift, which was a mass emigration of Cubans to the US in 1980 as a result of economic strain and political tension in Cuba. The Cuban Adjustment Act allows a Cuban national who was inspected and admitted or paroled into the US after January 1, 1959 to pursue a green card after being in the US for one year.

After living briefly in Miami, Lucero moved to NoVA. After years of not being able to return to Cuba, Santiago became depressed, homeless, and drank as a result of not being able to see his family that were still living in Cuba. Santiago longed to see his parents and sister. During this difficult time in his life, to survive, he stole basic necessities valued at less than $5 and ended up being charged with a misdemeanor.

Santiago with Cristina and his green card

He was charged with a second misdemeanor a few years later for stealing another item valued under $5. Misdemeanors can impact immigration status. In Santiago’s case, having two petit larceny convictions (two misdemeanor convictions) meant Santiago had to wait 15 years from his last criminal conviction to adjust status with a waiver of inadmissibility. Santiago had to wait to apply for a green card until 2021.

From 2011 to 2021, Just Neighbors helped Santiago renew his parole status every two years, which gave him a work permit. In 2021, Cristina, the Managing Attorney of NoVA at Just Neighbors, helped Santiago finally adjust his status to receive his green card. It took over a year and a half to process, but in April 2023 Santiago was overjoyed when he received his green card. Santiago is stable and has been sober for many years. The US has been his home for 43 years and he is grateful to now be a US Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder). Santiago hopes to apply for US citizenship as soon as he is eligible.

The Cuban Adjustment Act is still in place. Cubans who are paroled into the United States may apply for their green cards after being in the US for one year. For Cubans who are not given parole, however, most are now subject to the same long, and tedious process as immigrants from other countries.

*Name changed for privacy

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