Delaware County mother stuck in Mexico with no idea when she can come home

Karen Serrano Roberts has been living in hotels and Airbnbs for a year and a half in a country where she knows few people.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Mother stuck in Mexico with no idea when she can come home
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Karen Serrano Roberts has been living in hotels and Airbnbs for a year and a half in a country where she knows few people.

YEADON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Members of a Delaware County family are missing a wife and mother, forced to spend yet another holiday without her.

She's in Mexico, stuck in immigration limbo after allegedly getting bad advice from an attorney.

For the Roberts children, it is yet another spotty FaceTime call with their mother Karen.

"I feel like I've been forgotten," said Karen.

Her husband of 10 years, Lamar, is in Yeadon trying to hold the family together.

Karen Serrano Roberts

"For me, my daughters, my sons, we've, you know, struggled to find different outlets to kind of cope with it," he said.

Karen Serrano Roberts has been living in hotels and Airbnbs for a year and a half in a country where she knows few people despite being a Mexican national.

"We didn't have much options of where she could live," said Lamar, "if we wanted to keep her safe."

Karen was brought to the United States undocumented in 1991 by her parents when she was 4 years old. She moved around and eventually settled in Delaware County where she attended Upper Darby High School and started a family.

"My wife has been here her whole entire life. You know, her whole life," said Lamar.

In 2021, Karen hired an attorney who didn't deal with immigration issues. He said he filed all the necessary paperwork and instructed her to go to the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, do her interview to get her green card, and then come back to America legally. It was supposed to be a four-day process.

"He didn't know what he was doing," said Lamar. "This was a process that was supposed to be done before she left."

Under old immigration law, Karen can't enter the U.S. for 10 years as a penalty for living undocumented here so long. But under changes to the law, her new immigration attorney said Karen could've waited for her waiver approval and green card while staying with her family here in Delaware County.

"So she's stuck," said her attorney, Thomas Griffin. "I can't switch her to the domestic program because she's not here. So it just won't apply."

Griffin said Karen must prove her absence is creating a hardship.

"The hardship to the spouse would be, 'I have to raise five kids by myself and work full time,'" he said.

Money has been tight as Lamar supports two homes, so they wait and wait - hoping to get word and reunite with her family.

"It's an anonymous process," said Griffin. "You know, you don't know if the files are under somebody's desk and they forgot about it. There's no one to talk to. There's no number to call about it," he added.

Karen is just looking forward to the only place she knows as home.

"Be merciful and think of the kids," she said. "I feel like I did my time even though I didn't commit no crime."

Both Senator Pat Toomey and Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon's offices conducted Congressional inquiries to get the waiver process expedited. Both were denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

STATEMENTS:

Statement from a spokesperson for Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon:

"Congresswoman Scanlon and her team treat each request for constituent service as urgent and important. Our team will continue working to provide the Roberts family with the best constituent service possible and will communicate any updates to the Roberts."

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

As a matter of practice, due to privacy protections, USCIS does not share, confirm, or deny immigration information about specific individuals. Agency adjudicators evaluate every request for immigration benefits fairly, humanely, and efficiently on a case-by-case basis before issuing a determination, and USCIS is committed to upholding America's promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.