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Iraq war veteran's wife spared deportation

Frances Barrios, who was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child, receives humanitarian parole and can stay in Los Angeles and apply for a green card. Her husband suffers from post-traumatic stress.

November 06, 2009|Teresa Watanabe

The U.S. government has cleared a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrant wife of an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress, the family's attorney said Thursday.

Army Spc. Jack Barrios, a 26-year-old Los Angeles native who still experiences nightmares and depression after a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq, had faced the collapse of his family after his wife, Frances, was placed in removal proceedings. Frances, a 23-year-old Guatemala native, was illegally brought to the United States at age 6 by her mother but grew up in Van Nuys, where the couple live with their two young children.

But the uncertainty ended Thursday when family attorney Jessica Dominguez delivered the good news: U.S. immigration officials have extended humanitarian parole to Frances, allowing her to stay here and apply for a green card. Normally, illegal immigrants are required to leave the country for 10 years before they can apply for legal entry, even if they are married to U.S. citizens.

When she was informed of the news, Frances' eyes filled with tears as she slumped onto her husband's shoulder.

"Oh, my, God, thank you so much," she said.

Her attorney smiled and said: "You get to stay here to take care of Jack and your children."

Chris Bentley, a press secretary with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency was sympathetic and had worked with the family to find a "reasonable remedy."

The Barrioses' plight had attracted national attention as an example of the immigration problems suffered by hundreds of U.S. soldiers.

Jack Barrios said his wife was the family's anchor, caring for his 1-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son while he worked 15-hour days at two jobs, and helping him battle his post-traumatic stress.

"She's my everything," he told The Times last month.

On Thursday, he was all smiles. "I feel joy. We're going back to a normal life," he said.

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teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

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