By Nick Nunn
Last September, the Morgan County Citizen published a report about Lauren Bell, a young woman who was facing deportation on her birthday at the end of January 2013. Lauren Bell, moved to the United States with her parents and younger sister from Great Britain in 2003. In 2012, after almost 10 years of attempting to apply for a green card, Lauren and her family found out that she faced deportation on her twenty-first birthday if she was not able to obtain a valid visa before then. After Senator Saxby Chambliss pledged his support to Lauren and her plight, she felt hopeful that her issues would be resolved before the threat of having to leave her family became immediate.
But last night, voluntarily but at the suggestion of lawyers who hope to resolve her green card issues soon, Lauren flew back to the U.K. to stay with her grandparents.
Since Lauren’s visa became out of status in January, she had 180 days to leave the country before complications would arise from her remaining. If she stayed past 180 days, she would be unable to receive a green card in the future and would be barred from the United States – and her family – for three years. If she remained for a full year after her birthday, it would have been increased to a full ten years.
Lauren’s family is understandably upset with the outcome of her ordeal up to this point.
“We are absolutely devastated that the current immigration system has forced us into this course of action,” said Lauren’s father Kevin Bell before Lauren’s flight last week.
“We all feel that the U.S. is our and Lauren’s home. The U.K. is alien to her. I wonder what we would have done had there been nobody for her to stay with back in the U.K.”
Keith Hancock, Lauren’s grandfather who still lives in the U.K., had similar opinions about the situation.
“I love coming over there, and I like Madison, it is a lovely town,” said Hancock, “but, by hell, my thoughts have changed a lot if [the United States] are just going to kick her out.”
Hancock also brought up that his younger granddaughter, Emily, who is now 18, will face the same problems in three years if they aren’t able to get the green card application for her done in time. Kevin Bell returned the issue to the United States’ immigration system, which he diagnoses as faulty, as long as it will allow situations like his daughter’s to arise.
“The bottom line is that the current U.S. immigration system is completely broken,” said Bell. “How can they possibly impose this kind of scenario on a law abiding family who has lived here legally for the last 10 years purely because she turned 21 before the green card process had moved it’s course?”
Bell hopes that Lauren’s green card process will be completed within the next 12 months, but, although he notes that the process is moving quickly, there is no guarantee for when she’ll be able to return. He is only thankful that there is still family for Lauren to stay with in the U.K.