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NEW ROCKFORD, N.D.: Family faces deportation

A former New Rockford, N.D., nurse, her husband and their three children face deportation after a traffic stop for a broken headlight. The work visa for Marina Arroyo expired three years ago, according to Tim Counts, media representative for Immi...

A former New Rockford, N.D., nurse, her husband and their three children face deportation after a traffic stop for a broken headlight.

The work visa for Marina Arroyo expired three years ago, according to Tim Counts, media representative for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She was taken into custody after a routine traffic stop Wednesday night showed that her visa had expired.

Her husband, Eric, and their three boys also were taken into custody.

Arroyo has been in the process of re-applying for her visa, according to New Rockford friends. Miscommunication from those handling her status request has made her miss deadlines, according to Arroyo family friend Kent Braunberger.

Braunberger said Marina Arroyo came to North Dakota several years ago, a registered nurse from the Philippines recruited because of a shortage of nurses in rural North Dakota.


Arroyo first worked at a medical center in Harvey, N.D., but soon was transferred to the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd nursing home in New Rockford, according to Braunberger. It was when she was transferred to New Rockford that issues about her visa surfaced.

"Marina went to the administrator and director of nursing, who are no longer here, and said, 'Now that I am working here, you need to be my sponsor for my visa,'" Braunberger said. She was told that they would be her sponsor, but forms necessary for the exchange were never downloaded and sent in with the appropriate payment, he added.

An attorney also was handling Arroyo's case, Braunberger said.

"This guy's bills were finding her at her new address in New Rockford, but when it came to the paperwork for her visa? It didn't get to her," Braunberger said. "So, who dropped the ball?

"Let's say it's Marina's responsibility. She's supporting her family, and she's learning English. She's doing what she can and expecting that the paperwork she needs will get to her. In reality, no, it did not. In reality she missed the cut-off. She lost the status of her visa."

Braunberger and his wife, Carol, have been friends with the Arroyo family for the past three years.

Braunberger met Eric Arroyo at a basketball game, where the eldest Arroyo son was playing.

"I started talking to him because he's a very friendly guy," Braunberger said. The friendship ensued and the Arroyo family has attended church with the Braunbergers for the past two years.


"There's something wrong with this system," he said. "They should not be treated the same way people who enter the country illegally are. What kind of system do you see anywhere, where you make a mistake and you are out of here?"

In custody

He said that once Arroyo was stopped and the status of her visa was discovered, the entire family was taken into custody at about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Braunberger's wife, Carol, followed Border Patrol agents who took the family to Grand Forks.

She then waited outside in the Border Patrol parking lot until Thursday morning and "offered to be a comfort to the little boys," Braunberger said. "She sat there all day (Thursday) until there was a knock at the window" and she learned that the boys and their father were being released on their own recognizance.

Marina Arroyo was taken into custody and transported to the Grand Forks Correctional Center where she remained on $15,000 bond until about 3 p.m. Friday.

"She was in a common jail with all the criminals," Braunberger said.

The community of New Rockford raised and paid the required $15,000 bond, he said, and Arroyo was released Friday. A deportation hearing has been scheduled in Minneapolis in January.

Braunberger said his understanding is that if the family is deported, they would never be able to re-apply for visas to come back.


"This is the kind of immigrant we would be proud to have in our communities," he said. "These people are loved in this town."

It doesn't matter that Arroyo has been in the process of re-applying for that visa, according to Counts.

"Applying for a visa or extension does not allow you to remain in the country," Counts said. "It's very clear. Once a visa is expired, you must go home now."

Arroyo has been in the country illegally since her visa expired, Counts said.

"We have determined that the father and three children are also in the country illegally," he said. "All are required to appear."

He said he could not comment more specifically on the Arroyos' case because of privacy issues.

The Arroyo family was not available for comment Friday.

Braunberger said Eric Arroyo and the three children were here as part of Marina Arroyo's visa.


Well liked

In the town of New Rockford, about 100 miles west of Grand Forks with a population of about 1,400, the Arroyo family is well known, according to Braunberger.

Kurt Eddy, superintendent for the New Rockford-Sheyenne Schools, said the boys are "easy to have around" and "neat, brilliant kids." The school has about 390 students in grades K-12.

"The (Arroyo children) are well liked by their classmates," Eddy said. "(Other students) are very concerned for them."

And Marina Arroyo has a reputation as a caring and compassionate nurse, according to Ella Gutzke, administrator for the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd in New Rockford. She has been administrator there for about two years, and when she arrived, Arroyo was not working because her visa status hadn't been ironed out, Gutzke said.

"I'd love to have her back," Gutzke said. "Her personnel file is excellent. She's very family oriented and the residents that remember her have many good things to say about her."

Arroyo is a much-needed asset in the community, according to her friends.

"That's what's so incredibly frustrating about this deal," Braunberger said. "We seem to deport the good people because we can find them. The ones you and I and most people think should be deported aren't because we can't find them."


Braunberger does not fault those who took the family into custody.

"The people in the Border Patrol offices have been very nice, but they can't offer legal advice," he said. "But, something is wrong with our system. When things like this happen, at no fault to the immigrant, why should it be held against them? Why shouldn't they be given a chance to make it right?"

Friends of the Arroyos are seeking legal assistance for the family.

"If anyone has any willingness to assist, financially, legally or through prayer, we'd welcome it," Braunberger said. "The Arroyos have a strong, strong faith. They believe their lives are in God's hands. And I tend to agree with them."

Nadeau can be reached at (701) 780-1118, or (800) 477-6572, ext. 118, or by e-mail snadeau@gfherald.com .

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