HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As he saw his wife push the stroller with baby Noah across the bridge between El Paso and Juarez, tears welled up in the eyes of Houston father Jaime Avalos. Soon, his son would be in his arms, but even more importantly, he can return to Houston with his family after a monthslong immigration ordeal.
"I'm so happy," said the young father, wiping tears from his eyes around 11 a.m. Monday.
"I'm just so grateful for Congressman Al Green and our attorney, Naimeh Salem," Avaldos' wife, Yarianna Martinez, said.
Monday morning, ABC13 was the only Houston television station that traveled with the young mother, baby Noah, Congressman Green, and their immigration attorney to El Paso. The group then walked across the bridge to Juarez, where Avalos was waiting.
"We wouldn't be crossing this bridge right now if it wasn't for (Rep. Green) and his team, and our attorney," Martinez said.
Avalos, a DACA recipient, had been stuck in Mexico since August 2022. Even though he grew up in Houston, Avalos left the U.S. to finish some immigration paperwork at an interview with the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The interview was part of the process to obtain permanent residency in the U.S.
But it turns out, he got bad legal advice. Avalos - a DACA recipient who is married to a U.S. citizen - could have finished his interviews in the U.S. because of that status.
ORIGINAL REPORT: DACA recipient stuck in Mexico away from his wife and baby because of immigration mix-up
It was discovered that following his initial entry to the U.S. as an infant, Avalos was taken to Mexico, at which time his birth was registered in Oaxaca, Green said. Then, he returned to the U.S. permanently.
As a result of this exit as a child under 8 years of age, U.S. law bans Mr. Avalos from reentering the U.S. for 10 years. After first hearing about the story, ABC13 reached out to Congressman Al Green's office.
"Once I got the sense of what needed to be done, it made it a lot easier to do it, although it was a difficult thing to do," Rep. Green said as we walked over the bridge.
In the past six months, Congressman Green made it a personal mission to bring Avalos back. Green introduced a private bill to the House of Representatives back in November, asking for permanent resident status for Avalos.
In addition, he's visited Avalos in Mexico, spoke about his plight in Congress, and even pressed President Biden during the State of the Union.
About a week ago, the family learned that humanitarian parole had been granted.
"This is just the beginning, not the end for the family," said Salem, who began representing them after Avalos got stuck due to bad advice from his previous attorney.
Monday, across the bridge, Salem stood beaming as her clients were once again a family.
"We still have to work on his legal status, to make sure he can work, and get his citizenship," Salem, who is all-too-familiar with botched immigration cases, said.
"It happens all the time," added Salem, who says immigrant families are particularly vulnerable to inexperienced attorneys and notaries who are not licensed to practice law. "This (happy reunification) is very rare. It's a great day, and we were hoping this was going to happen. But we didn't know it was going to happen this quickly."
Green, who would like for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, realizes bringing home Avalos doesn't change the broken immigration system.
"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time," Green explained, saying every little bit matters.
As we walked back over the bridge to American soil, we asked Avalos how he felt.
"Excited!" he said.
"How long have you waited for this moment?" we asked.
"Since they denied it, what, six months ago," he explained, worried he might have to wait the full 10 years, as many others have.
There would be other delays. At immigration checkpoint, officers had to fingerprint Avalos and complete another background check. Then, it was a mad dash to the El Paso airport. Fortunately, everyone made it on the flight.
As the sun set over Texas, the plane glided into Hobby Airport. Congressman Green, Attorney Salem, and the Avalos family were all visibly tired. There was, though, one more surprise waiting.
About a dozen relatives, with signs, flowers and balloons, awaited the group at the airport, bursting into applause as they walked out.
"We weren't sure we're going to get it done until it was done. There were so many things that went awry," Green said, grinning ear to ear. "We have to commend the Biden administration for realizing this was a mistake and allowing Jaime back into the country. He still has a lot of work ahead but can now do it with his wife and baby."
Hugging his mom and other relatives, Avalos eyes once again brimmed with tears.
"I'm glad they came," he said, before his voice trailed off. The young husband and father buried his head into his son Noah's thick head of hair to hide the tears.
Welcome home, Jaime. Welcome back to Houston.
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