Ramon Mendoza never could imagine he would be a widower less than a year after he got married, or that on top of grieving this horrible crime, it would also throw the Mexican college grad’s immigration status suddenly into limbo.
Ramon’s wife Maribel Ibañez was the on-duty supervisor at the Church’s Chicken Restaurant in Otay Mesa on Nov. 6, 2019, when police say a customer tried to buy food with a counterfeit $100 bill and was refused.
Ten minutes later, the customer returned and opened fire across the service counter, aiming for employees. The bullets killed Ibañez, and injured two of her co-workers, investigators said.
The alleged gunman, an ex-con with a long arrest record, was later arrested, which provided some consolation for Mendoza.
But the stress he suffered soon worsened when he learned that his wife’s murder now made his future in the United States uncertain.
Mendoza, legally in the country under a valid tourist visa, had started the process of obtaining citizenship, which appeared uncomplicated since his new wife was an American-born citizen. Now, with the love of his life gone, Mendoza learned that he would have to restart the process of obtaining permanent status by applying as a widower, which has no guarantee of success.
“This waiting makes me tense, frustrated. I’ve already had so many low moments” Mendoza told NBC 7.
His San Diego lawyer, Chris Morris, said the immigration system should ease the way for grieving applicants like Mendoza but, unfortunately, does not.
“It's the failing of the immigration system. Here you have this perfect immigrant: university grad, articulate, very caring person, charismatic person. His wife was murdered in the United States and he's having to fight through the same immigration system that anybody else would have to. There are no breaks,” Morris told NBC 7.
Meantime, Mendoza’s life is on hold.
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The college graduate with a degree in international relations is not legally allowed to work.
So, he waits for his case to be considered, staying at the home of his late wife’s family and hoping that the wish his late wife had for him can still happen even in her absence: that he can make his life in America.