Couple Fears Traveling to Mexico for Citizenship Hearing

Adoptive parents say consulate refuses to move hearing out of Ciudad Juarez

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCDFW.com
    A Rockwall couple must travel to Juarez, Mexico, to keep their adopted children.

    A Rockwall couple says they want to continue raising the four boys they've adopted -- they just don't think they should have to travel to one of the most dangerous cities in the world to prove it.

    Israel Rivera and Mike Sullivan has been ordered to appear at a U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for a citizenship hearing.

    Your Kids or Your Life

    [DFW] Your Kids or Your Life
    A Rockwall couple says they're faced with a terrible dilemma, risk losing their kids or put their lives at risk after being ordered to appear at the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico. (Published Tuesday, Mar 16, 2010)

    But the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning Sunday after three people with ties to the consulate in Ciudad Juarez were shot to death this weekend. The department is urging U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to the border area -- including Ciudad Juarez -- and is advising people who are living or traveling in those areas to exercise "extreme caution."

    But the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez has repeatedly declined to reschedule their March 30 hearing, Rivera and Sullivan said.

    "They told us that the interviews are set up for the convenience of the interviewer, not the petitioner," Sullivan said.

    It leaves them with two choices: Travel to Ciudad Juarez or skip hearing on the advice of the travel warning and risk losing any chance of gaining U.S. citizenship for their children.

    "Why are we being put in this situation where our safety is in jeopardy?" Rivera said.

    The couple legally adopted Rivera's nephews, Martin, Victor, Rafael and Jack, five years ago after the boys' father was sent to prison.

    The brothers' father illegally brought them to Texas from Mexico years ago. Rivera and Sullivan have been working to obtain U.S. citizenship for the children since the adoption.

    The family has been told to plan on staying in Ciudad Juarez for at least 10 days. Sullivan said being Juarez places a bull's-eye on his entire family.

    "Me and Israel both are planning on going, but we're scared to death," Sullivan said. "We're really worried."

    Three adults with connections to the U.S. consulate in Cuidad Juarez were gunned down Saturday, and two children were wounded. An American consultate employee, her husband and the husband of a Mexican employee were killed in two near-simultaneous incidents by suspected drug gangsters. The shooters chased down and opened fire on two SUVs carrying the families from a chidlren's party.

    But the FBI said Tuesday that confused hit men may have gone to the wrong party.

    "We don't have any information that these folks were directly targeted because of their employement by the U.S. government or their U.S. citizenship," FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons told The Associated Press by phone from El Paso.

    Gov. Rick Perry activated Tuesday a secret spillover violence contigency plan. The governor cited an increasing threat of violencing crossing the border into Texas.

    Seventeen-year-old Martin Rivera, the oldest of the boys, said he tries to reassure his brothers but knows they see his fear.

    "I think it's a very scary situation, and I'm scared for my family," he said. “I grew up in Mexico, and I've seen stuff that kids shouldn't see when they're young."

    If the family misses their hearing, the children may be forced to return to Mexico.

    "One day, you're having fun and everything is OK, and then you realize any day now they could come here and take us away," Martin Rivera said.