By Jared Bray, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
SALT LAKE CITY — Forty years.
That’s how long Filipina Cora Espinosa had to wait before getting approval to legally immigrate to the United States and join the rest of her family in Utah.
She arrived at Salt Lake City International Airport via United Airlines Flight 5897 on March 1.
“It feels so great, so great to be with my siblings,” she told Balitang America. “It is (40) years na naghintay ako.”
Espinosa’s family eagerly awaited her arrival, standing near the TSA exit with American flags and a sign that read “Welcome Home Popoy and Cora.”
“Finally the day has come,” Teena Sigua Jensen, Espinosa’s sister, said. “We’re just really happy.”
How did Espinosa, 71, wind up waiting more than half of her life to relocate to the U.S.?
It all started in 1978, when Espinosa’s mother filed an immigrant visa petition on her behalf. One year later, Espinosa married an Australian, which voided the petition.
In 1984, Espinosa’s mother filed a new petition, for a married child, but in 1993, immigration officials deemed it lost.
A third petition was filed in 1994. This one, however, expired in 2010 after Espinosa’s mother, the sponsor of the application, passed away.
At that point, immigration officials told Espinosa that the best way for her to join her family would be to start the process over, which could’ve taken 23 more years.
That’s when Espinosa’s family sought the help of Jennifer Andelin, the senior advisor to former congressman Jason Chaffetz and newly elected Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah.
Andelin took the case, and thanks to her persistence, Espinosa’s petition was finally approved by immigration officials in 2013.
“I worked with the ombudsman’s office. I worked with the legal office in D.C. Just trying to find any legal way that she could qualify,” she said. “And it was miraculous that it did. I’m just happy.”
So are Espinosa and her family. The Tarlac natives are now together in Utah. Finally.
“This,” said Espinosa’s sister, Celeste Sigua Galbraith, “is a momentous event (for) our families.”
The wait, at long last, is over.