Edgartown family ‘ripped apart’ over immigration issues

Laiza Cimeno, Vineyarder of 14 years and mother of two, trapped in Brazil by visa denial.

James Cimeno, Laiza Cimeno, and Leah Cimeno with Summer Cimeno in a stroller. — Courtesy James Cimeno

Updated 6:40 pm

Laiza Cimeno thought she was doing the right thing, her husband James said by phone from Brazil. In 2004, at 17 years old, she entered the U.S. without a visa via a Mexican guide, he said. She then traveled to Braintree, and eventually the Vineyard.

Recently she decided to clear up her visa status with the government. As the process moved along, she got a June 7 appointment with U.S. immigration officials in Rio. Things looked promising. She flew down with her husband, their 7-year-old, Leah, and their 2-year-old, Summer. It didn’t go well.

“We came down, and she got denied,” James said. “This was a major surprise to us.” Laiza, a Brazilian national who hasn’t set foot in her country of origin for 14 years, now appears trapped there indefinitely.

“We’re devastated,” James said. “Our family is getting ripped apart. The government should not be doing this.”

James, a longtime employee of Walter Smith Plumbing & Heating, married Laiza in 2012. He said erroneous information may be at the root of his wife’s problems, and the case needed a review by an immigration judge to resolve.

James said the government believes his wife was arrested at the border in 2004 and a deportation letter was issued for her as a result. Through an attorney, Laiza had the FBI run a background check on herself, and she had no arrest record, James said. Furthermore, he said, there are no fingerprints on record for her, a fact he said undermines the notion of her arrest.

“She’s not a criminal. She’s a very good person in our community,” he said.

James speculated that her guide may have sold her identity to another person, and that person then wound up being apprehended.

“We’re in serious trouble here. We really need help,” he said.

Family friend Ashley Waters said she’s reached out to Boston’s television news stations and to both U.S. senators’ offices.

“Our office has reached out to see how the senator can assist the family,” a Warren spokesman said. “Our office makes it a priority to be responsive to all constituents who request our help and treat each case confidentially as we try to swiftly seek answers on their behalf when possible.”

Waters confirmed James was contacted by Sen. Warren’s office and added Sen. Edward Markey’s office thus far has been “really helpful.”

A spokesman for Markey’s office confirmed they have been in contact with the Cimeno family, and are offering assistance.

James said his family is currently in the town of Cuparaque, where much of the Island Brazilian community hails from. If there are no breakthroughs, he and the children will have to return to the Vineyard in a week and a half without Laiza.

“This is just wrong what the government is doing,” he said.

Updated to correct the spelling of a Laiza Cimeno’s name and the location of the family. – Ed.


  1. First, I agree that what the government is doing is wrong. It’s no surprise to me that immigration would lie about her being arrested. Anything to get a foreign national out of the country. Such is the racist attitude from the current administration. I feel bad for the Cimeno family. I really do.
    But i have to say that if I had any kind of issue, or anything less than full on citizenship, I would not leave the country– especially to straighten things out with immigration. Perhaps with a different administration, but not with this one. The federal government is currently run by the most racist, xenophobic, lying, corrupt and self serving people this country has seen in centuries.

    • I’m with you on this – I wouldn’t leave the country to another country to deal with immigration. However, does that not beg the question, what documents did she use to leave the country and enter Brazil? Does the US government give some sort of passport or other travel papers to leave the country to deal with immigration? How else would she be able to board a plane?

    • You have to. If she entered illegally she probably applied for an I601 waiver. If it’s approved, you have to go back to your home country, go to an interview at the consulate there, and wait for your visa there, in order to legally re-enter. You can’t do it here.

      • And If they have an attorney they should know this. James should have stayed back in the US while she cleaned up the mess she made. She illegally snuck in through the Mexican Border, which is very suspicious considering she could have just flown in from Brazil and over stayed her visa. She didn’t get married until 2012 and year they have a 7 year old child so who paid for the healthcare of that child ,where has she been working and what name and identity does she use ?
        I find it very misleading to say ” ripping our family apart ”
        We can not allow criminals to be exempt from our laws and give them a free pass just because tbey have children and she chose to have children AFTER she snuck though Mexico…something is not adding up here.

  2. I’m sure she is a wonderful young woman, a devoted mother and wife…BUT…
    Yes, she did do something wrong, she broke the law !!
    She entered our country illegally through Mexico !!
    When we break the law, their are consequences…not just for American’s but also for foreign illegals !
    And that fact does not make our administration racist, xenophobic, corrupt or a liar…it simply means our administration is looking out for America first…A novelty idea to some!
    She knew when she married and had children what she had done.
    Now the consequences of her illegal actions, not our administration, has torn her family apart!!

    • Anyone who overstays a visa is also breaking the law, are here illegally, and is not supposed to be working. However the difference is, if you overstay your visa, and marry an American, you can change your status here, without leaving the country.

      If you entered via the border, part of the process of legally changing your status, is to go back to your home country, have an interview at the consulate, and wait for your visa there. It doesn’t take long, usually a few weeks. Then you re-enter, legally, with your visa. That’s what she was doing. She was in the process of becoming legal, and nearly finished with it. Hence people feeling empathy. I never see this level of outrage for anyone but Brazilians it seems. How many Eastern Europeans, etc. do you think are here on expired visas?

  3. Some people seem to forget, that when someone commits an illegal act and the courts send them to jail, the family is torn apart .
    American families are “torn apart” ever single day when a family member is imprisoned for an illegal act.
    Only one person is responsible for that….the person who committed the illegal act !!
    It doesn’t matter if the offense is entering our country illegally, or if it’s driving under the influence, you alone are responsible for the consequences of your illegal behavior !!

    • Wow. She was 17! She is married to an American and has 2 American children. Surely paying a fine would be a more suitable punishment here. Yes, acknowledge you did something wrong. Certainly not enough to break up a family over.

      • Paying a fine? So you are saying anyone that commits a crime and has children should be exempt from our laws?
        None of this makes any sense. From the sneaking in through Mexico to the FBI first claiming she was arrested in 2004 and then they claim she did her own FBI background. Why did she sneak in and why did she have children AFTER knowing she was not here legally? They didn’t get married until after their first child so I am assuming tax payers paid for her health care.
        What exactly makes her such a wonderful citizen ?

      • If an American commits a crime, whatever it might be, should their sentence be less because they have a family??
        Hardly a solid argument!

      • Let them ALL just stay in Brazil!! Seems they used the kids again as pawns bringing them along for her hearing!
        When a illegal gets stopped for driving without a license etc they should “Immediately” be deported, the car put up for sale and 1/2 the funds given to ICE and the other 1/2 goes directly to the “WALL”!
        Also why are there no police, drug / bomb sniffing dogs at any of the boats coming and going to the islands? The steamship authority cant even track down the several owners of cars who`s alarms are going off the entire trip to the island after the boat hits the slightest wave. Poor Martha & me!
        Again, Let them ALL just stay in Brazil!!

    • Local–you are correct that if you commit a crime that is punishable by jail time (which you may or may not get) you can be apart from your family for a certain period of time. In 2016 A rapist in Connecticut got out of jail after 3 months served– a white American rapist. He is happily back with his family and free to rape again.
      A 17 year old Brazilion girl crosses a border, and 14 years later she is torn from her family.
      Let me ask you, mr opine– did you ever do anything illegal when you were 17— got a family ?
      Perhaps consumed a little alcohol when you were under 21 ? Smoked a little illegal herb ? Ran a stop sign ?
      Have you ever heard of the 6th amendment to the constitution ? — you know, that document that conservatives like to say liberals ignore while they trample on it ?
      Here is the 6th amendment :
      In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.[1]

      I don’t see any indication in this story that this “criminal” as you seem to refer to her as got a trial— and I don’t see any mention in that constitutional amendment that says it only applies to u.s. citizens.
      Yup– let the white rapist go free, and tear a family apart because she is from Brazil — that’s the conservative ideology, and it is not what America is about. Your attitude is disgusting.

      • “Because she is from Brazil”??
        I don’t care if she is from the moon!
        That has no bearing on this issue.
        “14 years ago”?
        That is a negative fact, not a positive one!
        14 years on the run as an illegal while reaping the vast benefits of our country? That is not OK!
        And, as for my life and what I was doing at 17, that is none of your business.
        I am not the one here who has been caught having broken the law!
        Deflection and distraction, look good on paper, but they don’t change facts!

      • Not to mention the kid who killed people while driving drunk who was deemed too privileged to serve time. Also, I believe it’s Ms. Opine.

      • Don. You compare running a stop sign to removing my ability to get a decent legal citizen wage. Sorry the hired government did not apply the law to illegal immigrants before they attempted to have/bring families and sorry the sympathy can only go so far.

        • truxton– how many people do you think get deported because they have a minor traffic violation? Keep voting republican — hope you are happy living on $7.25 an hour. That’s the legal citizen wage —

          • Don not many get deported for breaking laws because MA has only two state police that can act on deportation for traffic violations. Fact. When you rewrite the law let me know. AS FOR NOW this is the law and if it is broken you have commited a crime, end of story. When I can not afford to run a company within the legal means for the past 20 plus years. And watch people all around me hire “under the law” illegal immigrants and pay off a loop hole insurance and get away unscathed. Wake up Don you are part of the problem if you support criminal activities. I suggest you report your self.

      • Triple don +12, why don’t you go enter Brazil illegally? Send us a post card during one of the breaks from busting big rocks into little rocks.

  4. It is in some senses not surprising but still shocking at the level of vitriol and bloodthirsty comments here. Though we are lacking all details as to circumstance of her crossing at 17, this was a minor child of 17! The “Dreamers Act” sets a legal precedent that qualified minors are to acquire legal status here. This very Commonwealth, a few miles away, celebrates and profits from the biggest bunch of undocumented aliens of their time. (Pilgrims). Where is the condemnation of that sorry lot of immigrants? On every level Laiza should be welcomed back into America and congratulated for her exemplary contributions to the social fabric of this nation.

  5. Cuparaque is a TOWN in the STATE of Minas Gerais, from where most of the Brazilians that evidence our island’s human trafficking problem originate.
    Does this rag fact-check ANYTHING?!
    I’ll waste no pity on this criminal’s plight. You made your bed, now lie in it, and may many more join you, where they belong.

    • They knew what they were against. They should have hired an attorney and he should have stayed here with the children until she fixed the mess she made .
      This all costs tax payers so much money and why do they expect Congress and public officials to aide them ?
      We have millions of Legal law abiding citizens here with NO healthcare and almsot a million abused and neglected children living in Foster care here in the USA .
      Let’s focus on them and US .
      Aiding people who recklessly use children as pawns to commit crimes will only promote more to do it .
      The other thing that upsets me is they had 14 years to do something and waited until now and want to blame tax payers and public officials .I have seen they have posted on a few local blogs and blaming the new administration for ” ripping our family apart ” so why did they wait so long and why not have done it when during the last three administrations?
      Something really fishy about this story.

  6. It is to bad, this sounds like a sad story.
    However at 17 years old this young lady knowingly, willingly entered the U.S. without a visa via a Mexican guide originating from Brazil – obviously knowing full well that this was all totally illegal, that is clearly shown by the steps she took to enter our country! She then traveled to Braintree, and eventually the Vineyard.
    How can she or anybody else possibly partially or especially fully blame our government for what is now happening to them now?
    Their family is getting ripped apart 100% because of their totally known illegal actions, all before their marriage and children if the news reports are correct.
    Our government should be applauded not blamed for them finally enforcing our totally lax and epidemically abused immigration laws.
    Our country is suppose to be a nation of laws like other nations us native citizens, wash-a-shores, those coming here legally and their children are suffering greatly in every possible way. We are the victims here and it is long over due that enforcement is finally being taken seriously.
    One quick example is our island suffers greatly from a terrible apartment / housing shortage many island natives and aliens who have entered our country and arrived on our island legally suffer greatly. Over night this serious problem would be solved if a ICE substation was manned on the island and all immigration laws were imminently fully enforced.

  7. This is a paradox. Due to our aging population, we need young, hard working immigrants who desire to become part of our communities. This young woman seems to be the exact type of person we need to attract. However she broke a law in coming here. She is trying to do the right thing. The immigration officials are trying to uphold the law. I hope that our elected officials can figure out a way to bring this family back together.
    Given the huge number of illegal immigrants in this country, we actually want to encourage the otherwise law-abiding ones to do the right thing and become citizens and productive, tax and Social Security paying members of the community. At the same time we need to protect our borders from those who bring a different element to our society and do us harm. We need stronger borders and an improved path to citizenship.

  8. A word to the wise. President Trump is in a generous mood right now, having commuted sentences etc. A plea for help from one of the few remaining Republican state senators could have a chance of success. The lady in question has a number of positives working in her favor.

  9. All of you people (except a couple) refer to this place “as a nation of laws”, which is incredible because YOU STOLE IT FROM THE INDIGENOUS RESIDENTS! And now you want to hold Laiza to YOUR laws? Hahaha!

    • You could try exculpating yourself from participation in this horrendous theft of property from indigenous residents by relocating to your country of presumed ancestry, Poland or Russia perhaps? But then you would have to deal with the knowledge that they also stole the land from previous residents. We are such a lawless species. BTW, the Brazilians stole their land from indigenous residents too.

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