Immigration rule change keeps families together

  • Tobin Munoz, 24, with cerebral palsy, plays cards with his dad Medardo and mom Bonita in their Santa Rosa home on sunday March 3, 2013. Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat

A new federal immigration rule aimed at keeping "mixed status" families together takes effect Monday.

The policy, which President Barack Obama initiated last year, allows certain undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply — without having to leave the country — for a waiver from a 10-year ban for unlawful presence in the country.

Currently, these immigrants must leave the country and request a waiver at a specific U.S. consular office in the immigrant's country of origin. For Mexican immigrants, that meant traveling to the crime-ridden border city of Ciudad Juarez and waiting several months for the waiver process to run its course.

The new rule means Medardo Munoz doesn't have to leave his adopted son, Tobin, alone. Tobin, 24, has cerebral palsy, mild retardation and seizure disorders, so he requires around-the-clock care. Medardo Munoz is Tobin's primary caregiver, while his mother, Bonita Munoz, a U.S. citizen, works as an in-home support provider or is often away from home on union business.

"Without him being there I wouldn't be able to make the living to support my family," said Bonita Munoz. "It's a relief that we can apply without having to go to Mexico for months and months."

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