Eighteen years ago, Celis Wignall left Jamaica for the United States to support her family. She got her green card here, became a citizen, and filed a green card application for her daughter. And then she waited. And waited because the number of green cards available each year is limited.
Mirela Iverac of WNYC Radio reported on the limbo that 4 million people endure to join their families in the United States. Wignall had only seen her daughter, Miriam Robinson, on vacations to Jamaica. Robinson had put off marriage and children, not wanting to jeopardize the green card application that her mother had filed. The first story on their long wait ran in March. In September, Miriam got her application approved. The second part of the story, featuring the reunification ran in November.
Mirela’s Story Behind the Story
Immigration reform was at the top of legislative agenda in 2013. The most attention was directed on efforts to legalize the status of illegal immigrants in the country. Everyone working on the comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate was quick to point out that immigrants could only get their green cards once people who are already in line to come to the United States legally obtain theirs.
These lines are long. There are around 4 million people waiting abroad, according the Department of State. For some, the wait isn’t long; for most, however, it takes years, if not decades. I wanted to profile a family to go beyond the numbers and show just how long it can take before a green card is secured.
It wasn’t easy finding the right family willing to share their story. As is frequently the case with immigrants, even ones going through the immigration process legally, the families I contacted feared that publicly sharing their story could jeopardize their case. Eventually, I met Celis Wignall, who had been waiting for 15 years to be reunited with her daughter Miriam. Miriam was at the time in Jamaica.
Getting Diane Solis’ and Martha Mendoza’s reporting tips and advice through the IJJ fellowship was very helpful, not just in shaping the stories but also in thinking about new approaches to covering the immigration beat. Dan Kowalski’s lecture put immigration reform efforts into context. The speakers’ advice during the fellowship and afterwards was greatly helpful in shaping the stories.