LONGMONT, Colo. — When Maria Stepanyan applied to petition for permanent residency for her brother 13 years ago, she imagined it would take no more than a decade before they learned whether the application was successful. She never imagined it would take this long.
While they waited in limbo to learn more from the government, Stepanyan's brother applied for visas to visit Colorado and his family, including his mother, in Longmont.
After her brother's most recent visit, his return ticket was booked for flights from Denver to Germany to Armenia. When he arrived at Denver International Airport, he learned that his Lufthansa flight from Germany to Armenia was canceled. While checking in, he was rebooked on flights from Denver to Germany to Austria to Armenia.
When he arrived in Germany, he was questioned by immigration authorities who said that he did not have visitation rights to fly to Austria. As a result, he was deported back to Armenia.
"We are just waiting all these years, not even knowing what the end will be," Stepanyan said. "The biggest hurdle here is that we don’t even know how long we will wait to find out that answer. During that time, as you can see, things happen. That kind of error happens by airline employee at the check-in where it can be detrimental for the background, for my brother’s background."
Stepanyan said she believes that a deportation will negatively impact her brother's case for permanent residency in the United States. She worries that it will jeopardize his chance, after waiting more than a decade to get to the top of the list.
"We were led to believe that there is a system that works. We have come to learn that no, the system doesn’t work," Stepanyan said. "It creates an impression that the system is actually created to trap people into this, into this broken machine where you are hopeful and thinking that you are doing the right thing."
Adding to the stress is the ongoing conflict in Armenia.
"It’s just really been heartbreaking to see the worry on my wife’s face daily," said Charlie Hickman, Stepanyan's husband, who added that watching the conflict happen from the other side of the world brings its own worry.
"That’s what it feels unfair," Stepanyan said. "It would have been good to know and not feel deceived and tricked. It feels like we are being fooled and tricked and that doesn’t help create trust in the government system."
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