While studying at Fresno City, Andy met a girl. Her name was Miranda.
She was a U.S. citizen, born and raised in Fresno.
Her family was Mexican too, but the way she and Andy grew up was very different—“two opposite ends of the spectrum,” as she puts it.
“He had to go to work in the fields as a kid with his parents and I didn't have to do that.
I could run around the neighborhood and play with my cousins.”
Miranda and Andy dated for about two years.
While they were dating, Miranda saw how much Andy struggled because of his status. She says that he was depressed because he had been working so hard.
They wanted to get him documented. Though the couple was young, they decided to get married to help speed up the process.
A few weeks after they got married, they started getting the paperwork together to petition for his immigrant visa.
A few months later, they received instructions from various government agencies on what he had to do to get that visa.
As Andy understood it, he had to attend two appointments at the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. At the first appointment, in September 2008, he would present his case.
At the second appointment in November, they would let him know whether or not he would receive a visa to return to the country and obtain his residency.
In the two month period between those appointments, he would not be allowed to return to the United States.
Andy was excited about that two-month stay in Mexico. He had been working non-stop for years and he thought this would be a good opportunity for a short vacation.
He and his mother, Concepcion, crossed the border. It was Andy’s first time back in the country in 20 years, since the two years he had spent there as a child.
On September 23, 2008, Andy and his mom attended that first appointment. But things didn’t go as he planned:
"...I remember at the appointment they told me we’re not going to let you back into the U.S. for a period of three years.”
Andy was told he couldn’t return, that he’d need to wait three years before reapplying for a visa.
The news was devastating, both to him and his family.
“My dad doesn't cry a lot...when he found out about Andy, I think that's one of the first times I saw him cry.”
- Beatriz, Andy's sister
Looking back, Andy says that his time living in Mexico wasn’t a bad thing—just different.
The first year or so was hard. He knew some Spanish, but it was a bit broken and he was less comfortable with the language than English. He was living in the small, rural community where his parents grew up. Despite having dozens of cousins that could help him with the transition, the lifestyle was completely different from what he had known in the United States. People lived off the land and a steady income was hard to come by. His siblings would send him money to help him make ends meet.
Eventually, he saved enough of that money to be able to move to Irapuato, a larger city that felt a bit closer to home. Things got a little better. He worked at a movie theater for a few months and then found a job teaching English. (He likes to say that he learned more about the English language in those few years in Mexico than the whole time he lived in the United States.)
Andy spent a total of four years in Mexico, with the time it took to reapply for his visa. During that time, the family did their best to stay in touch. There would be phone calls and Skype sessions and visits from siblings, parents, and his then-wife (the two are now divorced).
But the separation still took its toll.
“We would cry because he wasn't here. I'm pretty sure he cried because he was there.”
- Beatriz, Andy's sister