The visa ordeal of Laiza Cimeno came to a close Sunday night when she drove off a ferry at the Steamship Authority’s Oak Bluffs terminal to a cheering crowd.
Cimeno, her husband James, their 7-year-old Leah, and their 2-year-old Summer all found themselves waylaid in Brazil after an unexpected visa denial. Cimeno, a Brazilian national who has lived on-Island for 14 years, had traveled with her family to Rio de Janeiro in late May to straighten out her immigration status. Upon receiving the denial, she had no easy path to return to the U.S. with her family. Cimeno’s plight caught the attention of Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, as well as U.S. Rep. Bill Keating. Her situation then turned around rapidly. She returned to the Vineyard after over a month abroad.
“We were not expecting to come home this fast,” Laiza Cimeno said. “I can’t believe we’re all back home. It’s a good feeling.”
She expressed amazement at the number of people waiting at the terminal. “I expected a few friends, but not that many,” she said, describing the scene as “a lot of love.”
“We’re very grateful for the special community we live in,” James said. “We’re blessed.”
He said the quick turnaround of his wife’s fortunes was “definitely overwhelming — we needed a miracle.”
James extolled Senator Markey’s staff for their visa assistance, describing the office as “phenomenal” and “top-notch.” “They were with us every step of the way,” he said.
James said he and Laiza knew Markey was speaking in Tisbury the same night they returned. “We just missed him,” he said. “We wanted to go down and personally thank him.”
“Markey’s office really helped push it through,” family friend Ashley Waters said.
Cimeno said even some of her daughter’s school friends were in Oak Bluffs to welcome them all home. Her preschool teacher, Cindy Andrews from Rainbow Place, was also there, she said.
“They were very happy to come home,” she said of both her children.
A staunch CrossFit participant, Laiza said she was back at CrossFit Martha’s Vineyard at 6 am Monday to link up with her training partner Laura Beckman for exercise. Before they began, Laiza said owner Sara Mass and her wife greeted her, along with other CrossFit members.
“It was absolutely the best thing ever to have my buddy back,” Beckman said.
Beckman said she and Laiza bought identical Nohble sneakers with a rainbow pattern on them for their daily 6 am workouts. While Cimeno was held up in Brazil, Beckham said she put her friend’s sneakers on the floor next to her as she worked out alone. She did that for 36 days.
When Cimeno finally came home, Beckham was amazed: “I knew that we would get her back, but I thought it would take months and months — wow, this is almost too good to be true.”