Williamsburg Man Granted Temporary Visa to Care for Ailing Wife

Benjamin Barragan with his family (Image via Benjamin Barragan on Facebook)

WILLIAMSBURG—A Williamsburg man on Tuesday was granted a temporary humanitarian visa to care for his terminally ill wife, following a yearlong legal fight. 

Benjamin Barragan, who has lived in the United States since he was 16 years old, in March 2018 went to Mexico, where he was born and raised, to fill out paperwork for a green card. But Barragan’s green card application was denied, he was told, because in 1994 he entered the U.S. without legal authorization. 

His wife, Guatemalan-born Maria Paxtor Perez, is a U.S. citizen battling stage 4 breast cancer. Doctors have given her months to live and Barragan wanted to be home to care for their children. The couple has two children, ages 10 and 13. 

While banned from entering the U.S. for 10 years, Barragan in mid-2018 applied for a humanitarian visa but was that application was denied, as well. Tuesday morning, after multiple attempts to come back home to the U.S., Barragan, 41, entered the country after receiving help from lawyers and the two New York senators, according to an attorney on the legal team and friend, Roberto Portillo Togno.     

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“After working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to ensure that they prioritized Mr. Barragan’s urgent case, we are relieved to learn that he has been issued a temporary humanitarian visa to care for his children and terminally ill wife in Brooklyn,” New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said Tuesday in a joint statement. “This was the humane and right thing to do; it made no sense to separate him from his family in the first place.” 

“Now they will have an opportunity to comfort and support one another during this difficult time,” they added. “Our thoughts are with Ms. Paxtor Perez, Mr. Barragan and their children.” 

“This is just temporary, just so he can come in and be with his family when Maria passes and put his affairs in order and then he has to go back to Mexico,” explained Portillo Togno, adding that Barragan is authorized to stay in the country for 60 days, after which Barragan, who works in a restaurant, is legally required to return to Mexico. “It’s a tough situation for them, but at least now he’s here with them, which is great, and he can support Maria in her last moments.”  

“These are good people, these are honest people,” Portillo Togno, who works at the law firm Drohan Lee. “It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happened.” 

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Sam Raskin

Sam Raskin has reported for Politico New York, Gotham Gazette, Gothamist and Curbed New York.

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