A dream delayed

A dream delayed

A series of immigration mistakes turns one veterinarian's dream into a deportation nightmare
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Dec 01, 2009


On the rebound: For Dr. Salvador Galindo, paperwork errors led to a year-long struggle to return to work in the United States.
Tampa, Fla. — A year ago, Dr. Salvador Galindo sat in an immigration holding facility in Miami, waiting to find out if he would be forced to leave the United States — the place he built his career and called home for more than a decade.

By now, he has returned to the United States after watching his finances shrink, his marriage fall apart, and his dream of becoming a board-certified veterinary surgeon put on hold.

But speaking by phone from his sister's home in San Luis Potosi, Mexico — more than 200 miles outside Mexico City — in October, only a little more than a week before his return to the United States, Galindo says he is not bitter, but simply looking forward to starting over ... again.

"It's been a very difficult time. I don't wish this for any one of my colleagues," says 38-year-old Galindo. "Now I have to restart everything. I lost my marriage. I got divorced. It was a nightmare."

Born, raised, and educated in Mexico, where he earned his DVM degree in 1995, Galindo first arrived in the United States in 1998 to see his infant son, Christian, born to an ex-girlfriend he met while she was teaching in Mexico. He wanted to be involved in Christian's life, so he studied English to get a job as a veterinary technician near Chicago so he could obtain a work visa.

Three years later, Galindo married and applied for a green card for permanent residency. But the marriage lasted only a year, and his green card application disintegrated with it.

But Galindo kept getting new visas over the next several years. For three years, he got professional training and student visas while he interned in the veterinary surgery and oncology departments at Purdue. He continued his training, without any grants or funding for his studies.

Eventually moving to Florida, Galindo got a surgical residency at a private practice and settled in Tampa. He re-married in 2007 and once again applied for his green card in pursuit of permanent residency in the United States.

But when his interview rolled around in August 2008, a paperwork error that would lead to a year-long immigration struggle came to light.

A warrant had been issued for Galindo's arrest because he had been summoned for an appearance after his first green card application. The summons was sent to an old Chicago address, returned to immigration services, and placed in his file, alongside his new information and work visas.

"Had someone looked into it further, they would have seen he had proper status and was in Tampa," says Galindo's attorney Jennifer Roeper.

The warrant meant Galindo would be deported, unless Roeper could get his Chicago case reopened and transferred to Tampa before he was put on a plane.

Immediately transferred to a holding facility in Florida from the hearing, Galindo was shuttled between Miami, Oklahoma, Texas, and then back to Miami to avoid hurricanes. He was shackled at the ankles, his wedding ring was lost, and he was rarely able to talk to his wife or attorney.

"They detained me and told me they were going to clarify things. But in the end they completely detained me," says Galindo, who had lost more than 20 pounds and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome by the time he eventually was released on bond. "I ended up staying (in holding facilities) for two months. I think our animals in the kennel live much better. They just mix you up with these criminals."

Sitting in the holding facilities, Galindo said he could remember taking the train to work in Tampa and seeing the homeless beg for money and wonder where he went wrong.