Home again: Walterboro resident kept in Mexico for two years finally allowed to return home

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By VICKI BROWN

vbrown@lowcountry.com

When Christine Deleon said goodbye to her husband, she had no idea that she wouldn’t be seeing him for another two years.

Mario Deleon immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 16 years old. Since his arrival, he married, had children, and supported his family. He finally decided to become a legal citizen of the United States, but to do that, he first had to travel to Mexico, retrieve paperwork, and see an attorney.

That’s when his family said everything went wrong.

“Mario made it to Mexico, only to find out that the attorney here didn’t send everything that was needed to the attorney in Mexico. He was placed on a 10-year bar and was denied entry back into the United States. At this point, life became a nightmare for my daughter and myself,” said wife, Christine Deleon.  “My husband was the sole provider to our household,” she said. “I came back home to file the I-601, which is the application for a waiver on the grounds of inadmissibility, which was a stack of papers that was easily about 7 inches tall all together. It took me three months to put together everything we needed that prooved hardship for my daughter and me. 

“The waiver was approved in February of 2020. We were ecstatic because he was fixing to come home,” she said. 

Mario was required to submit paperwork back to the Mexican Consulate. His wife said he got everything together and made the doctor’s appointment that he needed to return to the United States. His appointment was for March 23rd of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly hit, and pushed that appointment back. “My husband was literally quarantined in Mexico,” said Christine. “He has been there ever since.”

This began Christine’s fight to bring her husband back home. “Everything I tried didn’t work. I contacted the American consulate many times only to receive the same form letter. 

“I wrote at least 10 letters to the Consulate asking questions regarding the case, and the only thing I ever got back was the exact same letter each time not answering any of my questions. I called everyone I could think of, with no results. 

“Finally, I contacted Lindsay Graham and begged for help. He asked me to send all of my information,” said Christine.

Christine said she sent U.S. Sen. Graham (R-S.C.) everything she had - and that is when everything began to go right, she said. 

“In February of this year, I decided to write Senator Lindsey Graham a letter explaining to him what was going on, that I was unable to get any answers from anyone, and to see if there was a possibility that he could help us and look into our situation. 

“I was so happy to receive a letter from the Senator expressing interest in our case,” she said. “… I received a letter back from him February 26. In tears I read it. My husband was fixing to come home thanks to Sen. Lindsey Graham,” said Christine. 

“People really don’t realize the hardships that we faced and now are trying to fix, to almost losing our home,” Christine said. “I worked two jobs, sometimes even three to try to pay our bills and still was unable to stay afloat. Our family and friends did help as much as they could, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. There are so many more families out there with a similar situation to ours, and my heart and thoughts and prayers goes out to them because my daughter and I lived it,” she added.

With Senator Graham’s help, Mario was finally able to come home, but Christine wanted the homecoming to be spectacular, especially for her daughter Kaylee.

Kaylee plays soccer for Colleton County High School, and desperately wanted her father to get to see her play as a senior. Senior soccer players were asked to write notes to family members and fans: the announcer at the game was to read these notes aloud at their soccer game. 

Kaylee’s note said, “I really wish you were here tonight, Dad, to watch my first game as a senior. You taught me everything I needed to know about soccer since I started playing at three years old and you’ve been gone for almost two years now. I really hope you come home soon. Mom and I miss you so very much!” Little did she know that her wish would come true.

Without her knowing, Kaylee’s father came to the see her play for the first time in two years. Everyone was in on the surprise, including her teammates.

Her teammates lined the field to hide her father. When her teammates moved aside, Kaylee was shocked to see her father sitting there. “I missed my dad so much, it was the hardest and worst thing that could happen to anyone, but today I received the best surprise ever! I am so glad my Dad is home with us again. Mexico had him for almost two years and that was long enough! We have missed him so much; not a day went by without me thinking about him,” said Kaylee. “All I can say is that God is good. Thank you to everyone who has been keeping my family in your prayers and who also helped my Dad surprise me. I love you dad!”

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