A CRAIGAVON woman, now living in the United States, is facing the heart-breaking prospect of being separated from her two-year-old child amid growing fears American Immigration authorities could have her deported.
Jacqueline Toman (30) originally from Meadowbrook, moved to America seven years ago where she married and gave birth to her son, Justin.
Now a single mum who attends the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, Jacqueline has two weeks to raise $12,000 to pay the remainder of her degree course fees, or she could be forced to return home without Justin due to losing her student visa status.
She is currently fighting a custody battle over Justin, who is a US citizen, after separating from her husband. Justin’s American nationality means she would be unable to bring him back home if she were deported.
Her family and friends in Lurgan are rallying round the mother-of-one to raise the funds to ensure Jacqueline can finish her degree course, gain employment and remain with Justin. Jacqueline told the Mail that she has already borrowed more than $55,000 on course fees so far. However, as she is not an US citizen, she cannot apply for a loan within her adopted home without a resident co-guarantor.
Jacqueline explained: “I’ve personally borrowed $25k with a US co-guarantor, but that person is unable to be guarantor me again for another loan. My parents also borrowed $30k and the banks won’t lend them anymore either. I can’t apply for a loan in Northern Ireland as I am not currently residing there.
“If I were to lose my visa and become (an) illegal in the US it would be very difficult to find work and therefore have money to provide for my son.”
“If I become illegal I can’t travel to Ireland to see my family either, as I would not be able to leave with my son - or if I did - I would not be able to get back into the US and return to him. Of course, losing my visa could also put me at risk of being deported back to Ireland without my son.”
The business student added that she contacted the British Embassy and was advised to seek legal representation. “I spoke to several attorneys and they all strongly advised me to find a way of ‘stabilising’ myself in the US rather than trying to return to Northern Ireland with him.
“When one parent tries to relocate with a child or their children, the courts often show favour and grant custody to the parent that is left behind. I don’t have the heart to separate my son from his dad anyway. I try to put myself in my son’s shoes as I’m sure that he would like to grow up close to his dad.”
A website has been established to help raise funds and so far well-wishers have raised over $1,600. If Jacqueline reaches the target, it would go some way to securing her future in America. “Once I finish my degree I can legally work for one year on the same visa. Once I’m working, I can switch to a three-year work visa provided the employer sponsors me,” she continued.
Thanking family and friends for their donations, Jacqueline said, “I feel so loved. It makes me even more homesick. I’m so touched by all the support I’m getting.”
Jacqueline’s aunt, Dolores Fearon, is planning a number of fundraising events in Lurgan to help her niece. The details have yet to be finalised but Dolores said family and friends are doing all they can to ensure Jacqueline will not be separated from her son. She stressed that they were finding it a “hard challenge” to raise the necessary funds in 14 days.
“We want to do all we can to help her and raise the $12,000. She is so close to finishing and she can’t give up now. All she wants is to be able to provide a better future for her son,” said Dolores.
Jacqueline’s website can be viewed at http://www.gofundme.com/IrishMa?pc=fb_cr. Anyone wishing to make a donation should note that the website stipulates that the minimum donation is $5.