You can find her in the back kitchen of a Boulder sushi restaurant rapidly scrubbing pans and prepping vegetables 12 hours a day. Tatiana Salguero is a 27-year-old immigrant from San Salvador, El Salvador, who has been working towards getting her green card for the past nine years.
Salguero came to the Colorado in 2000 on a one-year student visa joining her father, who was living in Colorado at the time. Salguero worked full time and returned to El Salvador with her savings at the end of her visa year.
Salguero reentered the U.S. in 2007, as an estimated 11 million immigrants do every year. Illegally.
Salguero hired Coyotaje to smuggle her across the border for a fee of $14,000.
“It is very hard to get any kind of visa from my country,” Salguero said.
El Salvador in particular is one of the hardest Central American countries to get a visa or residency from.
“It’s nearly impossible,” Violeta Chapin, associate professor of law at the University of Colorado, said.
“Visas for Salvadorans are distributed very selectively because the U.S. fears that they will jump their visas once they get here,” Chapin said.
Chapin said that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department looks for a “hook” in a potential immigrants home country that will basically ensure that the person will return after their visa expires. This hook factor can be a house or property, as well as a spouse or family.
The rate of legal immigration for El Salvador is very low. A study published by the Migration Policy Institute said that the majority of Salvadoran immigrants were not U.S. citizens in 2008.
“Most people from El Salvador, in my experience come into the country unlawfully,” Chapin said.
San Salvador is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with a murder rate of 108.54 per 100,000 people in 2015, according to a report published by WorldAtlas.com. That is a murder rate high enough to rank San Salvador number three on the list of highest murder rates in 2015.
“For most Salvadorans, they don’t trust that you will really want to return because of how impoverished and violent El Salvador is currently,” Chapin said.
Chapin, who specializes in immigration law, said that many immigrants goal is to adjust their status as lawful permanent residents or green card holders after they have found a way into the country illegally, most typically by way of marriage.
Salguero’s situation is different; she is applying for lawful permanent residency through the sponsorship of her employer.
This process requires Salguero to sign a contract with her employer, stating that she will be reliable for “permanent labor employment” as defined by the United States Department of Labor.
In order to meet this definition, Salguero had to first file a Form I-765 to request an employment authorization document with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department, allowing her to work in the United States legally.
After the I-765 form is approved, her employer files an application for permanent labor certification or a ETA Form 9089 with the Department of Labor, certifying that she in a “bona fide, full-time permanent job available to all U.S. workers” and “her job requirements must adhere to what is customarily required for the occupation in the US and may not be tailored to the foreign worker's qualifications,” according to documents provided by the Department of Labor.
Salguero’s employer documents all of her work and progress required by her contract and pays her a pre-negotiated salary to streamline the process.
Salguero’s permanent labor certification took two years to process and was approved but she still isn’t a lawful permanent resident. She has to send in her permanent labor certification along with the Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker, and the I-485, Application to Register as Permanent Residence or Adjust Status into the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department to petition for status as a lawful permanent resident.
Even if an applicant meets every guideline in the process and fills out all of these forms properly there still is no guarantee that an immigrant will be certified as a lawful permanent resident, Chapin said.
This process can also take anywhere from months to years and in some cases they may never be approved, Chapin said.
Salguero said that she had already received her green card during her first interview and some details were lost in translation.
“I didn’t know what to tell you or how to tell you the first time we talked,” Salguero said, referring to the first interview.
During a recent interview Salguero said that her legal permanent resident hearing was successful and that her application was accepted by the state. Salguero said that she most likely will be waiting for another year to get her green card while her case is processed.
“Typically there is a fine for immigrants who came in unlawfully and are now going to make an affirmative application and lots of time they will send you back to your home country and make you wait for your visa or green card to come through the embassy, “ Chapin said.
Salguero said she is unsure if this will happen to her but all signs say that she will most likely be able to stay stateside.
In Colorado there are a number of resources for immigrants who are looking for help and advice about to take advantage of. The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network is a non-for profit organization in Westminster, Colorado that offers lawyer service, education, child programs and citizenship drives for immigrants in the state.
Together Colorado, based out of Pueblo and Fort Collins, Colorado and Intercambio based out of Boulder, Colorado are other non-for profit organizations that provide similar educational and citizenship drive services.