In each newsletter, we would like to highlight the immigration journey of one of our clients. Our clients are an amazing group of people who work to bring much good into the world. However, many times, they face tough decisions and have had to make sacrifices in their pursuit for permanent residency. Here’s one of the stories that’s truly touched our heart this past year.
By Sr. Celine Paramundayil
Medical Mission Sisters
I am a Medical Mission Sister (MMS), part of an international religious congregation from India. I arrived in the U.S. with a religious worker visa (R-1) on May 20, 2010. Our MMS General Assembly appointed me as the main NGO representative to the United Nations for three years. Having lived and worked among the marginalized in grass roots service for over a decade, I was not at all keen to work in the international arena. But I accepted this appointment as a response to our society’s need. My predecessor left after a month of initial orientation to the U.N. Our society coordinator appreciated my healing ministry at the U.N. and insisted that I continue another term. Then, the General Assembly reappointed me for another three years. It was then that I had to decide whether to renew my religious visa or to apply for a green card since my visa would expire in October 2012.
My initial plan was to go to Doha (Qatar) for the U.N. climate conference and proceed to India for a home visit. There, I would apply to renew my R-1 visa. But, after discussing with my organization’s leadership, I decided to apply for permanent residence instead. Our coordinator in Sector North America connected me to CLINIC’s attorneys. After initially communicating by email and phone, our CLINIC attorneys began the green card process in June 2012.
My dream of going to Qatar and to India collapsed when my CLINIC attorney advised not to travel abroad during the initial stage in the permanent residency process. My family was more disappointed than I was. But little did I know there was more agony awaiting me: in September, my sister (who is also a religious worker) had to return to India from Spain due to a medical emergency. Not being able to go see her was truly devastating.
My misfortune continued. In November, my brother fell sick and, after a lengthy medical investigation, was diagnosed with complex appendicitis. While recovering from his second surgery, my brother developed serious complications and was admitted in the ICU. I asked my CLINIC attorney if there was any way I could travel to India but was told it would be risky since my adjustment of status application was pending. To combat the agony, I resorted to intense prayer. On a regular basis, I asked my CLINIC attorney if I could travel, perhaps by applying for advanced parole. My attorney explained that this was a possibility but I would have to provide a letter from my brother’s doctor explaining the seriousness of his condition. As I considered my dilemma, a miracle occurred: my brother began improving. Within a month, he was discharged and went home. I realized that while I desperately wanted to see him while he was in the hospital, God wanted something else!
On January 10, 2013, I received a parole document allowing me to travel for a year. However, my travel plans were halted by a required biometrics appointment which, much to my dismay, was scheduled on the same day as an important board meeting in California. Fortunately, after discussing with the meeting organizers, I was able to arrange an online/telephone meeting. Although it was not the same as a physical meeting, I was glad to be able to get the biometrics done.
Finally, after months of desperately waiting, I left for India on March 12th. I had a wonderful time with my family including a Thanksgiving get-together arranged by my brother who, only a few months earlier, was gravely ill!
The miracles continued even upon my return to the United States. When I arrived back on April 11th, my green card was waiting for me in my mailbox!
My heart goes out in gratitude to God who gave me more than I could’ve asked for. I thank my CLINIC attorneys, the immigration team at the MMS offices, and all the others who supported me in this journey.