Many of us tend to think of immigration status in black and white terms. You’re either here legally or illegally, and there is no blurry line between the two. But this week’s edition of The Story on National Public Radio is the perfect example of the gray area that many immigrants fall into. A North Carolina couple has ended up separated indefinitely because of their misunderstanding of immigration law.
George Kendall is a U.S. citizen who lives on the Outer Banks, and his wife Verna is a Canadian citizen. When she crossed the border in 2007, with the intention of marrying George, she says no one even bothered to look at her passport. The couple eventually married, and they thought that guaranteed Verna legal residency. But a year ago, she returned to Canada to see her new grandchild. When she tried to come home to North Carolina, she was told at the airport that she couldn’t return because, to her shock, she had been living in the U.S. illegally.
Verna is now banned from the United States for 10 years because she failed to apply for a visa within 180 days of entering the country. George is 69, and despite spending thousands of dollars on lawyers and fees, the Kendalls don’t know when or if they’ll be reunited. “I’ve never been so confused and so frustrated in all my life,” George says. This story illustrates how complex and baffling immigration laws can be to ordinary people, and how unyielding the laws are even in the most innocuous of circumstances. Listen to the whole story in their words.