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.