Extreme Hardship

Climbing a Pile of Files

Every immigration lawyer that I spoke with about my husband Picasso’s immigration case always asked me two things right off the bat: 

1. Do you have kids?

2. Do you have any health issues?

We don’t have kids and I didn’t have any health issues for many years. Until I did, in September of 2011.

Why did the lawyers always ask these same two questions within the first five minutes of a phone call?

Because they were most definitely thinking about the 1-212 waiver application, our mandatory first step. If it was approved, then we’d be able to put in a U.S. permanent residency application and wait. Since my husband had a lifetime ban, a lot rode on that waiver.

The 1-212 waiver application is like a classic country song, full of apology, regret and woe – is – me. It has to be. It’s a mountain of papers that you must climb.

My husband Picasso had to formally apologize to the U.S. government for things like entering the U.S. without papers and a previous gun possession charge from when he was 19 years old.

And we both had to show how we were suffering. The technical term is that we had to show extreme hardship, particularly from me, the U.S. citizen of the equation.

In September, of 2011, I was diagnosed with Myeloproliferative Disease, subtype Essential Thrombocytosis, sometimes called Essential Thrombocythemia. The short version is that I’m at a much higher risk for blood clots and strokes. I have a 3% chance of this blowing up into leukemia. 97% that it doesn’t. No cure. No definitive cause for why I got it, why I now have this mutation that I didn’t have before.

My extreme hardship suddenly looked a lot sexier on paper.

Doctor’s letters, downloaded WebMD and Mayo Clinic articles made their way into the waiver application. Pretty much everyone who wrote a letter on my behalf talked about how they were concerned about what would happen if I stroked out and my husband wasn’t here.

I’m not saying that Picasso’s 1-212 waiver application was approved solely because of highlighting my illness. But I often think about what would’ve happened if I didn’t have it. While my husband and I were definitely experiencing extreme hardship, it was hard to prove without my illness in a way that U.S. immigration officials could hear it.

That’s why I’m supporting the proposed legislation H.R. 3431, sponsored by Congressmen Beto O’Rorke of Texas and Steve Pearce of New Mexico. From a Los Angeles Times article: 

The legislation would allow immigration officials to use discretion when granting waivers for those applying to be in the country with their American spouses, children and other family members.

One of the key elements of this legislation is to update the waiver language from “extreme hardship” to “hardship.”

The omission of one word can change open up a whole world in a waiver application.

This legislation will not help every U.S. citizen with an undocumented or deported spouse. My husband would not have benefited from the proposed legislation, because he would not have met the requirements.

But there are a lot of families in my community that do. So for them, I’m  asking to you directly to click here and voice your support for H.R. 3431.

It shouldn’t take the threat of a stroke to prove extreme hardship. The separation of families should be hardship enough.


8 thoughts on “Extreme Hardship

  1. Extreme hardship, does poverty count?
    Loss of home, work, vehicle, ?
    Sometimes not even having enough to provide the basics for our children count?
    The state government in the state that we live in tell me that they could help our children and I , if I would only get a divorce. Not while I’m still married to my children’s father.
    Immigration told my husband and I that if we divorce that there’s no chance that he can come back to the USA. That we have to stay married if there’s any chance that we can have his 20 year ban overturned.
    So we keep praying for help with what we are to do.


  2. Hey Giselle thank you for writing this blog. I know it is a bit late for me to comment but i am like how you were when it all began for Thrombocytosis. I was having a blood test for a different reason and they came up with too many white blood cells. After having my forth test and getting the results tomorrow morning its scaring and the doctors aren’t telling me much just making appointments for another test. I am 14 years old and wanted to find some help and advice from someone who has this and you are a true and strong inspiration and now i know that is i have this i am truly not alone. 🙂 I am so sorry your life has been so tough Giselle. xxx


    1. Rollem, thank you for your post. I’m sorry that I didn’t answer you sooner. I appreciate it that you reached out to me and I hope that you are doing better overall. Stay in touch. Love, Giselle


  3. Ah I am so glad you posted this, although I’m sorry to hear you are suffering from something potentially life-threatening. We ruled out extreme hardship years ago as a possibility for a visa. But I was just this year diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (I’m 31 so its somewhat out of the ordinary), and we hadn’t put two and two together to call our lawyer and ask! Seriously, thank you so much!


  4. Thanks so much Giselle.I posted a comment with them earlier,but I am glad I read your story.When we first went before an immigration jude he asked the same questions-since we dont have children together he counted that against us.Miguel and I had been married 17 years at the time but because I am 15 years older than him the judge said we couldnt have a real marriage,it was for the papers.After 17 years?! Be serious.I have diabetes,high blood pressure,scoliosis and both my rotater cuffs are going.I already have disability and can only work minimally(nursing) and wont be able to do that forever.Iĺl be 60 next year.I cant stay in Mexico because I will lose my diability.. I am supporting and praying for this too go thru.Your case has been a beacon to me and the Lord has given me hope through your story.I am so thankful to have met you on line and I am so happy for yours and Picassos blessing!


    1. Linda, thank you for sharing part of your story. The whole idea of “proving” extreme hardship is, in my opinion, a humiliating and painful experience. But I’m glad for the magic of technology connecting us all up! Big Hug, Giselle


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