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Rockford couple reflects on navigating immigration issues following federal DACA ruling

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Haley and Jose Galarza met at Rock Valley College in 2011.

"We started dating, got together, and never looked back," says Jose with a smile.

The couple has been together for nine years and married in 2016. Four years later the married couple are proud parents to an 18-month-old daughter.

"She's the most amazing thing ever," adds Jose.

But the couple's life together wasn't always guaranteed. Jose has lived in Rockford since he was two years old, coming here as an undocumented immigrant. It was Haley who encouraged him to apply for DACA back in 2013.

"I was very afraid because when you apply you have to give all your information to the government," says Jose. "They know where you live, they know where you work, they know everything about you."

While Jose says DACA was life-changing relief, the goal for the couple was permanent residency. In 2016 they tied the knot and applied for it. Which required Jose going to Mexico for interviews in 2019.

"There wasn't a guarantee that I would be able to come back," says Jose.

A stressful time away from the life he knew in the United States. Away from his wife, and their infant.

"If Jose can't come back, what does my life look like," says Haley. "Will I have to quit my job? Will I have to pack up our stuff, sell our house, and move to Mexico?"

But after three weeks, Jose received a life-changing phonecall.

"I had to hold my tears back when they said "Jose you have your Visa"."

So years after filing for residency, in December 2019 Jose and Haley were able to restart their life together in Rockford. While they are overjoyed for the Supreme Court's ruling on DACA, they know it's not the end.

"So I think it's really important everyone remembers to fight for Dreamers and DACA recipients," says Haley. "And that we remain vigilant. It's not over, we know it's not over."

The couple add they don't believe they would have successfully navigated the system without a reputable attorney, and warn other couples in a similar position to be wary of those trying to take advantage of their situation.

The couple maintain a blog to help educate others navigating DACA and the Visa process. You can find their work here.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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