A Mexican man who was barred from entering the United States to bury his 10-year-old son has been given permission to attend the funeral, following media coverage and Congressional intervention.
Fidelmar ‘Fidel’ Merlos-Lopez’s son Damien Lopez had died in a Shenandoah, Pennsylvania house fire along with his cousin, aunt and 7-month-old half-brother.
The grieving father has been waiting at the U.S.-Mexico border at Laredo, Texas, since the blaze, his lawyer Elizabeth Surin said. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection had been denying Lopez ‘humanitarian parole’ to attend the funeral.
“He’s out of his mind. Can you imagine? Your son is dead in a fire and you can’t even get across. It’s clear they are giving us the runaround,” Surin had said.
Lopez entered the United States illegally in 1995. He married a U.S. citizen who gave birth to Damien in 2002, later divorcing and then marrying his current wife, Danielle Lopez, who’s also a U.S. citizen.
In 2007, police stopped him for running a red light and turned him over to immigration authorities. He agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily and began the process of applying for legal permanent residence.
Surin, his immigration lawyer, said he was well on his way to getting his green card and rejoining his family in Shenandoah when tragedy struck.
“He’s trying to comply, trying to follow the rules of U.S. immigration law, but they are using that against him now. This whole thing is really heart-wrenching,” she said.
Surin said border officials told her that Lopez was originally denied entry because ‘he didn’t have a relationship with Damien.’ She said it’s just the opposite: Lopez shared partial custody of Damien and paid his ex-wife child support before leaving the United States. She added that the Mexican husband of Tiffany Sanchez, a 29-year-old woman who also died in the fire, was granted humanitarian parole to attend the funeral.
Humanitarian parole is only approved for about 25 percent of the 1,200 applications made each year.
In February, Think Progress reported on Yarelis Bonilla, a 5-year-old Leukemia patient in New Jersey, whose life-saving bone-marrow transplant almost did not happen because U.S. officials twice denied a visa for her donor, her 7-year-old sister Gisselle, to come to the U.S.
Giselle got her visa also after media coverage and the intervention of a politician, Senator Robert Menendez, and the operation was successful.
Picture by stephan caspar