They belong together



It’s hard not to think about the Abreu family right now and not be sad and then mad.

Sad because this is a family that’s been ripped apart. We’re not going to attempt to justify their case here. But looking at the facts as we know them, this appears to have been a case where it would have done no harm to approve the green card of Jose Abreu.

Jose came to the United States as a 17-year-old. He did not have the proper documentation. He acknowledges that. He was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, then released to his parents who were on Martha’s Vineyard. He was told there would be a court case, but never received notice to appear.

We remind you of the Supreme Court case involving Wescley Pereira, a Vineyard man who was in the country without the proper documentation when he was arrested on an operating under the influence charge. A deportation hearing was scheduled, but he never received notice of that hearing. That notice was apparently sent to his street address, but he had a Post Office box. Thirteen years later, Pereira received an order of deportation. In an 8-1 ruling in 2018 (unprecedented these days for the nation’s highest court), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the First Circuit Court of Appeals was incorrect when it upheld Pereira’s deportation. At issue in the case was the so-called “stop-time” in immigration cases. Pereira’s attorney argued he had been in the country beyond the 10-year limit. Under federal immigration law, an undocumented immigrant present in the United States for 10 years can attempt to remain in the U.S. by appealing to the U.S. Attorney General, who has the final say. During those 10 years, the person must show that he is a person of good moral character, and not be convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, or other crimes, including terrorism. He must also demonstrate that being deported would “result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his spouse or child.”

We bring up this case to show the discrepancies in our immigration laws.

Back to Jose. He lived on the Island for years without any issues. He married Jennifer and the couple has three children. Jose has a successful landscaping business on the Island — one that’s in jeopardy while he is stuck in Brazil because of the immigration situation. 

He went, he believed, with his papers in order. How much risk was involved and whether he knew those risks is in dispute. But what’s not in dispute is that the outcome is horrific.

Here’s where we get mad. One of his three children was stopped from leaving the country because her Brazilian passport had expired. (She was traveling with a U.S. passport.) But because Jose was not with her at the São Paulo airport — and was several hours away — she was not allowed to board the plane. A Brazilian parent has to be with a child traveling, the officials said, or has to be there to give permission. Time was of the essence because Jennifer’s temporary visa to enter Brazil was about to expire.

The Abreus have attempted to get the attention of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Ed Markey with little luck. Rep. William Keating has worked with the Abreus thought his office said they can’t comment on the specifics due to privacy concerns.

Keating’s office responded to inquiries by Times reporter Brian Dowd, but neither Warren nor Markey have answered.

These are politicians who have made repeated promises to fix the broken immigration system. 

During a 2018 appearance on the Island, Senator Warren asked Vineyarders to “join the fight” and promised reforms on the visa system. “I understand that Washington is broken and they are paying the price. We’re doing everything we can to work with both the Department of Homeland Security and the Labor Department to try and get some relief, not next year or the year after that, but to get them some relief now.”

In a 2020 press conference while he was running for office, Senator Markey said he would introduce a bill to reduce the barriers for immigrants, according to Commonwealth Magazine. “The new deal for New Americans provides a proactive and affirmative plan to support new immigrants and refugees,” Markey was quoted as saying. It was introduced a year ago. 

Representative Keating has worked to open up more visas for foreign workers to come to the United States — something important to the Island’s tourism economy — but where’s the help for those who are already here and facing real crisis like the Abreu family? Keating’s office issued a statement saying they couldn’t comment on the Abreu situation specifically because of privacy concerns but added they can’t “overturn or force a decision in favor of a constituent” with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

For his part, President Joe Biden introduced an immigration reform bill on day one as promised, but it appears to be low on his administration’s priority list. As the Washington Post reports, the president has struggled to demonstrate a clear plan on immigration, worrying about being labeled “too lenient” by Republicans.

We just don’t understand why Democrats aren’t doing more to fix a problem they vowed to correct. They have the White House, they have a majority in the House, and they have a 50/50 split in the Senate. Time’s wasting. The midterm elections are not guaranteed.

The Abreus say they feel alone. We want them to know they are not alone. There is a strong community behind them. In the words of Senator Warren, “join the fight” Islanders and make sure her office and the offices of others in the Congressional delegation don’t ignore the plight of the Abreus. Let them know we’re sad, mad, and want action.

Updated to clarify that Keating’s office is working on the Abreu case, but can’t comment about the specifics -Ed.