By Sue Ellen Woodcock
There is definitely one thing Quoc Vi Dinh wants for Christmas — his family. For the past eight months he has been trying to get his wife and 5-year-old twins back from Colombia.
Dinh, an American citizen born in Mobile, Alabama, admits his wife entered the country years ago illegally, but when Gisselle wanted to become an American citizen the disruption in the Dinh family began.
So they applied with U.S. Immigration for an I-601 which forgives the illegal entry into the United States. The application was denied. This past May an immigration lawyer told Gisselle she had to go back to Colombia and follow the process by having an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Medillin, Colombia. She took her twins with her so her husband was not at home juggling three children (10-year-old son Sammy is a student at the Cummings School). They never figured it would be months before they were all back together.
“My twins Jacob and Izabella were supposed to start kindergarten in September,” Dinh said.
Giselle went to the interview for her visa application where she was asked where she had entered the country over a decade ago when she was 19. She told officials she couldn’t remember and eventually concluded it was Florida. The visa was denied.
Now a second application for another I-601 has been filed. Dinh was told the answer could come in seven months to 24 months.
“For the last 13 year she has lived and worked here. She has paid taxes,” Dinh said. “What did the officer see to deny this.”
Dinh added that they have a case file that is over 6-inches thick with everything about Gisselle, from medical records to employment information and more.
Dinh, 34, and his wife, Gisselle, 32, met 13 years ago while working for Au Bon Pain and were married in East Boston with a reception at Spinelli’s for 80 guests. Both grew up and have family living in East Boston and Malden. Dinh’s mother, who immigrated from Vietnam, lives with him in their Read Street apartment in Winthrop. Gisselle does have a couple of aunts in Colombia.
At home in Winthrop Dinh waits, goes to work, takes care of his son and mother, and has slipped into a depression. He is supporting both his residence and his wife’s apartment in Colombia.
“When I was unemployed for those few months I had an anxiety attack and ended up in the hospital,” Dinh said.
Dinh, who works as a senior configuration analyst at Tufts Health Plan, is grateful for the job, especially since he was the victim of a major downsizing from another well known health care provider a month after his wife got stuck in Colombia.
“Sammy has been sad too. He misses his mom being around. He worries for their safety. He turns 11 on Dec. 31 and that has been an issue,” Dinh said, adding that every night he and his son get on the computer to have FaceTime and talk with Gisselle and the twins.
Dinh worries for the safety of his family too. His wife already had a scary episode with a drunken Medillin taxi driver and they have no health insurance. One of the twins recently got an ear infection and to get the antibiotics a friend had to purchase them under their plan.
“I’m always thinking about them and it effects work to a certain extent,” Dinh said while he sat at his kitchen table, a framed photo of the family in the middle. “I’ve been invited to Christmas parties and I don’t feel like going. I try to do things with my son to have some fun. But it’s hard. i call them all the time to make sure they are ok.”
For now Dinh waits and is looking for help from anyone. He has sent out email to some elected officials and he hopes someone will be able to untangled the situation.