LIVINGSTON - One Livingston family is facing deportation this summer, due to a clerical error by the attorney working their immigration case.
“My H1V Visa expires August 30 and if the Department of Labor does not put a rush on the paperwork I will be deported, along with my family,” said Luis Amario, a Livingston homeowner.
Amario and his wife Zaritma have lived in the United States for six years. They came to America from Venezuela with their daughter Daniela, who will be a third grader in the Livingston Independent School District in August if her family is allowed to stay. The couple also has a son Matthew, age two, who is an American citizen.
Since they arrived in America, they have been following all necessary procedures for the path to citizenship in the United States. Both parents are college graduates. Zaritma just signed up and paid for an online bilingual educator school for herself, and Luis was planning to start his Master’s Degree in the fall at Lamar University.
It all started last summer when an attorney assigned to his case left her phone number off the paperwork that was required for the Department of Labor to approve the ETA 9089 Visa. This Visa will give the family a five-year permanent resident status and then they will be eligible to apply for full citizenship.
In October 2015 the Department of Labor sent a letter to the attorney pointing out the mistakes on the application and giving her 30 days to correct and resubmit for approval. In February, Amario called the attorney, at her request, to get a copy of the paperwork so he could apply for his master’s program.
“She told me she did not do it…she did not send the corrected paperwork in on time and I will have to go back to Venezuela,” Amario said. “I said, ‘What? I can’t do that.’ Then she said, ‘Do you have any other path to citizenship?’ And I said, ‘no.’ She did not even say she was sorry for the mistake. Nothing.”
So far, the Department of Labor has said they cannot rush the paperwork process. If they could, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) will accept a penalty fee for their part of the process and the Amario family will be able to continue to live and work in America, staying on their planned path to citizenship.
When asked, Congressman Brian Babin’s office replied: “Our office is aware of the situation and due to ethics and privacy laws we are prohibited discussing the details of any case.”
Amario and his family moved to Livingston from Kingwood, and their roots here run deep. Amario is working for the Livingston ISD as the bilingual teacher. He also plays guitar in the community jazz band and in many different “Arts Expositions” in the school, church and community. He is a taxpayer and an active member of Central Baptist Church, where he serves as a Sunday school teacher and plays bass guitar in the praise band on Sundays and Wednesdays.
His wife is a volunteer at Livingston ISD, sings in the choir and volunteers at church, and is a stay-at-home mom.
“The Amario family is a vital piece of the Body of Christ here at Central Baptist Church, and we consider them family,” said Central Baptist Pastor Mike Meadows. “Personally they have become close friends of ours, and I can say that this community is better because of their presence. Many lives have been changed because of how God has continued to use them here in the church and the community.
“We as a church stand behind them and support them, and we desire to see this situation resolved so that they can continue to be a vital piece of this community. As a former U.S. Army soldier I believe the Amario family is an example of what is right about this country and what we stand for. I would hate for them to lose their American Dream because of a piece of paperwork,” Meadows added.
The list of volunteer work the Amario family does to help the Livingston community is extensive.
“I serve as a volunteer for the SEED (Speak English Every Day) program in Livingston, I am on the Relay for Life teams for both my church and Livingston ISD raising money for cancer research, and I am a three-year member of the District Advisory Council and for the Green and White Scholarship Committee at LISD where we raise money for scholarships for high school graduates,” Amario said.
“Luis Amario encompasses every attribute that you would hope to construct if you were to define an exemplary employee,” said Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins. “He makes such a profound impact on our organization and those we serve because he not only brings an outstanding service to our students but he also connects with our community. Luis’ stature among the Livingston Lion family is deeply rooted and one that we definitely want to ensure to continue as a part of our organization.” The school district is taking every action possible to help right this wrong.
Amario is currently competing in a national guitar contest where 10 people will be flown to Los Angeles, California to perform with Vince Gill. The winners will also have the opportunity to record with Gill.
“He (Amario) is really good and I hope he wins,” said Jennifer Birdwell, a coworker and neighbor who is avidly pursuing any available help for her friend. “I just cannot believe this is happening. These are good people and contributing community members, doing all the right things to become American citizens. This should be an easy fix. It is just paperwork.”
If the Department of Labor does not intervene, Amario is facing the possibility of having to purchase tickets for his family to leave the country, get a passport and a Venezuelan Visa for his American born son, deal with his property in Livingston and somehow have enough money to set up his life in Venezuela for one year until he can return to America. Amario’s parents are retired schoolteachers and American citizens, both his sisters are school teachers in the New Caney school district and are American citizens.
The family is trying to come to terms with the possibility they will be unable to return to their home in Livingston for one year. “I am devastated,” said Amario. “This is my community and my home, but I will not be illegal. I will have to leave August 31 if I cannot get help. This attorney messed up my legal path to citizenship and my family may be forced to pay a high price for her mistake.”
(ENTERPRISE STORY BY KELLI BARNES)