QUERÉTARO, México | RALEIGH, N. Carolina
Nicole Salgado, co-author of the book Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders, will travel to the United States next week for the first time with her whole family, including her American citizen daughter and her husband Margarito (Margo) Resendiz. Margo was finally granted an immigrant visa last October, 14 years after the pair voluntarily departed the U.S. together in 2006, to live in exile in his home state of Querétaro, México.
“It’s hard to believe this day is finally here,” said Salgado, “When my husband and I got engaged over 18 years ago, I never would have believed that it would have taken this long for him to hold legal status alongside me.”
Reséndiz stated simply, ”I’m ready to return with my family, and have been for a long time.”
Amor and Exile, co-written with journalist Nathaniel Hoffman and published in 2013, tells of love that transcends borders—a story shared by hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens. In it, Salgado gave a first-person account of life in the U.S. with her husband while he was undocumented, her tortured decision to leave the country with him, and their seven years of exile and starting over together in Mexico. Nathaniel Hoffman, the book’s co-author and communications manager at Define American said: “It was shocking to me, even as an immigration reporter, and to many of our readers, that Nicole and Margo had to leave the U.S. if they wanted to be together, that there was no legal path for them as a couple. I’m thrilled that they can now return together as a family.”
In the six years since the book was published and delivered to every member of Congress, Salgado continued living in México with her husband and their 9 year-old daughter, and working as an environmental education specialist, occasionally giving book talks, and befriending fellow Americans in Mexico. Margo is a craftsman and shares in the care of their daughter “Bea” who is excited but also understandably nervous about traveling to the U.S. for the first time with her dad. Salgado’s parents, Ron and Deb, based in North Carolina, have also endured their daughter’s long exile and the fact that their only granddaughter has lived in Mexico since birth: “To say that we are excited that our family can finally be reunited in the U.S. would be an understatement. We are happy and relieved the wait is over and looking forward to spending more time with our granddaughter, daughter and son-in-law. It’s been a hardship for all of us in both countries to be separated for so long.”
Despite marrying Reséndiz in California in 2004, Salgado eventually learned that the only way to overcome her husband’s previous unauthorized entry to the U.S. was to leave the country for at least 10 years. And the only way to keep their marriage together was to go with him. After twelve years in Mexico, Margo applied for a waiver of ineligibility, which was approved in 2018. The pair then waited another year – until October of 2019 – for a shot at a visa interview in Ciudad Juarez, the only location in Mexico for permanent resident applicant interviews.
The couple is represented by immigration lawyer Laura Fernandez, who, according to Nicole, “played a vital role in our case.” Fernandez, based in Milwaukee, WI, states: “Cases like Margo and Nicole’s that end “positively” are relatively rare because very few applicants make the big, difficult decision to depart the United States knowing they will spend more than 10 years waiting for a chance to apply for their green card. Others end up in this situation accidentally, due to receiving poor legal advice and departing without knowing how long they will be banned. Thus, similarly situated applicants end up splitting up or divorcing due to the strain on the relationship and the financial hardship this situation almost indefinitely creates. Nicole and Margo made the best of a difficult situation and then took all the proper, albeit complicated steps to resolve their situation once they were able to do so.”
Salgado and Reséndiz´s good news is tempered by the fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans are still driven underground in the U.S. or exiled out of the country with their undocumented immigrant spouses. Salgado is an active member of American Families United, an advocacy organization made up of and supporting American citizens like her, which has worked to introduce bills to Congress that would ease their legal predicaments. Through her book authorship, her AFU activity, and online forums, Salgado has met or virtually met many people in similar situations who are fighting to keep their families together or bring them back to the U.S.
One good friend Nicole made in Querétaro soon after publishing Amor and Exile also recently returned to the U.S. – Heather Ruark and her family. Ruark, originally from Virginia, was also exiled after her own husband’s visa overstay from years ago. In 2019 her husband was finally granted his visa, after first being denied. “After an incredibly bittersweet goodbye last summer, the evening before flying into the USA, our family is relieved that Nicole and Margo will also be able to live in the United States as well,” Ruark stated, “and we look forward to remaining friends and fighting for other U.S. citizens to be with their families in the States.”
En route to Ciudad Juarez for Margo’s interview, they flew through Monterrey, Mexico, where they met an American woman from Chicago who, along with her two American children, is exiled permanently due to her husband’s lifetime ban for a childhood unauthorized entry. While in Ciudad Juarez, Salgado virtually met Edgar Falcon, fellow AFU member, El Paso native, and now resident-in-exile of Ciudad Juarez where he lives with his Mexican wife and dual citizen child. Randall Emery, President of AFU, had this to say about Nicole and Margo’s decades-long case: “We’re thrilled that Nicole is finally able to return home with her family. Her story is a testament to marriage and family, and an indictment of broken immigration law that strips U.S. citizens of their most fundamental rights.”