Woman granted immigration status adjustment after long battle — in Rep. Don Young’s final legislation
Possibility of deportation ‘outraged’ the late Rep. Don Young, whose last bill that passed allows Trimble to stay with her family in the U.S.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A U.S. Army officer’s wife who previously lived in Bethel has finally been granted a status adjustment to allow for her lawful permanent residency in the United States after an eight-year-long battle working toward American citizenship.
Rebecca Trimble moved to the U.S. from Mexico when she was just days old to live with her adoptive parents in 1989. She believed that she was an American citizen — and had a birth certificate and social security card — until applying for an enhanced driver’s license in 2012 when she was told that her adoption had not been completed properly.
“Finding out that it wasn’t done correctly was very overwhelming and surprised and shocked and scared at that point to be like, oh my gosh, you know, what now? What does this mean?” Rebecca Trimble said.
Rebecca married John Trimble in 2012, who entered the U.S. Army Reserves in 2014 and has since become a Captain. After they were married, he attempted to figure out how to fix her immigration status by himself but became worried when he was unable to make meaningful progress. The Trimbles then sought the help of accredited representatives to help remedy the situation.
“I fairly quickly came to the realization that I couldn’t figure it out myself, like, we needed some, like, expert, expert help,” John Trimble said.
John Trimble said that they submitted five separate applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, including providing documentation and paperwork more than 20 times. He said that it often took months — and sometimes over a year — to receive a response about the paperwork they had filed. With the help of Lutheran Community Services Northwest, their applications for parole-in-place status and a subsequent application for status adjustment in 2015 were both denied.
“We were all kind of at a loss at that point, because there wasn’t really a clear direction to go from there,” John Trimble said. “I just wanted to get it corrected. I didn’t want to take advantage of anything. I just wanted to get her paperwork straightened out, you know, and, and it was almost impossible to do that.”
Veteran litigator Margaret Stock, of Cascadia Cross-Border Law, began representing Trimble in 2019 after the numerous attempts by the Trimbles to remedy her immigration status had failed. John Trimble said that after reaching out to multiple immigration attorneys in Washington, D.C., and in Oregon, they were continually referred to Stock.
“It shouldn’t take like eight years, and hiring the best immigration attorney in the country, and getting a law passed through Congress to grant one person the right to be here,” John Trimble said. “There’s got to be a way to make it more streamlined than that.”
Rep. Don Young introduced House Resolution 681 on Feb. 21, 2021. The bill passed the House, but Young then died in 2022. Later, the bill was picked up and championed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski alongside Sen. Dan Sullivan in order to pass by the end of this Congressional session and prevent the bill from dying.
“The government of the United States said that she was an illegal immigrant and needed to be deported,” Stock said. “She’s also a mom, so a military wife and a mom and Don Young was so upset about what the government was doing to her that he introduced a private bill, which is a very rare piece of legislation.”
The passage of private bills through Congress is extremely infrequent. None of the 117 private bills introduced during the 109th Congress — nor any of the 21 private bills introduced in the 110th Congress — were passed. Trimble’s bill now becomes the last piece of legislation ever sponsored by Young to have passed.
President Joe Biden received HR 681 on his desk on Dec. 23 and signed the private legislation on Dec. 27, “which makes Rebecca Trimble eligible for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident.”
Trimble said that upon reentry from Mexico, her family was waved through at the border, under the impression that her adoption and entry into the U.S. was taking place legally. When denied parole-in-place status in 2015, she was told that there was no legal proof that her family had been waived through at the border.
“When I talked to Don Young originally about this he said he was going to fight for it and he was true to his word,” Stock said. “One of the things that outraged Don Young, so much about the case was it didn’t make sense. You know, here’s a woman that hasn’t done anything wrong her whole life, she came to the U.S. as a baby child, you know, a few days old, and her American parents didn’t know that they’d done anything wrong. And it turns out that, you know, the paperwork was incorrect and so years and years and years later, she’s facing deportation for something that was never her fault, and that’s what got him so angry. And then on top of that, she’s a military spouse. So it made no sense to be destroying some military family because of technicalities and paperwork that couldn’t be fixed.”
Stock said that when Trimble attempted to cast a ballot while she was not yet legally a U.S. citizen in 2008, that caused her applications for a green card to be denied repeatedly, as there are no exceptions for a non-citizen attempting to cast a vote. Trimble said that she is excited to legally cast her vote in local elections if her application to become an American citizen is approved when she becomes eligible to apply in three years.
“That’s one of the great things about being an American citizen, you know, is being able to have your voice heard and put that vote in,” Rebecca Trimble said. “When everything’s over, and I get my citizenship, hopefully, that’s one of the things I look forward to.”
Members of the community in Bethel reached out to Murkowski and Sullivan in droves to express their support for Trimble to stay with her family in the U.S.
“I also wanted to thank all of our friends, family and strangers who shared the story and wrote to their state congressional leaders for the private bill,” Rebecca Trimble said. “In my heart, I’ve been an American citizen since I’ve been here. And the only thing that stopped me is a piece of paper.”
Stock criticized American immigration law as outdated with few to no exceptions for situations like Trimble’s. She noted that the passage of private legislation is exceptionally rare and will not have an impact on anyone else seeking legal American citizenship — only Trimble.
“They’ve struggled a long time and waited a long time, and I think it’s important for people to realize that she was in a situation, she couldn’t even get a driver’s license you know, so she was basically in this perpetual limbo — even though she was married to an Army officer, and had U.S. citizen kids — where she couldn’t even get a driver’s license in the United States,” Stock said. “Unfortunately, there are some other private bills that got introduced that didn’t go anywhere. So we were very, very lucky. And I credit the hard work of the Alaska congressional delegation for getting this through. They really put their efforts behind Becky Trimble and her family. And of course, the community Bethel, folks in Bethel really love this family, and they were really pushing hard to try to get some relief for her.”
Rebecca Trimble said that she was overjoyed when the U.S. Senate unanimously passed HR 681 on Dec. 15.
“Amazing, like the feeling of, something impossible is possible,” Rebecca Trimble said. “It still brings me to tears because it’s just so exciting. And it was such a long journey and just so much. So many people advocating for that and really trying to push it before that congressional term ended. And yeah, I’m just so grateful, blessed.”
With Biden’s signature of HR 681, Trimble will be allowed to apply for permanent resident status, and will not be deported to a country where she only spent days of her life.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that she’s not the only one in the country with this problem. She’s the rare beneficiary of a private bill, but there are thousands and thousands of other immigrants with similar problems in the United States, and they don’t have private bills. So they’re just out there not able to live legally in the U.S. and facing similar problems. So I’m hopeful eventually, Congress will pass immigration legislation to fix some of our broken immigration laws so we won’t have more cases like this,” Stock said. “We just have really harsh immigration laws. We’ve had that for more than 30 years now where the laws just don’t forgive you for anything.”
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