FRESNO, California (KSEE) – A veteran and Fresno native has been unable to see his wife for 14 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Larry Stevens has been stuck in the Central Valley since last year and hasn’t seen his wife for over 14 months.
“I feel lonely, I feel lost,” said Stevens. “I miss my wife. She is the only family I have. I have no one to turn to here. I have to support myself emotionally and it is really hard.”
Stevens was born and raised in Fresno, but moved to China in 1999. In 2014 he met Lily in Bejing.
“She just loves children,” said Stevens. “She has one daughter.”
Lily and Larry share a passion for traveling and quickly fell in love. In 2016 the couple opened a travel agency that took clients all over Asia, including China and Thailand.
The two tied the knot in March of 2018 and continued to explore the globe.
“This is when we were in Israel,” Stevens said as he showed a picture of his wife on his iPhone. “I told her I didn’t wanna go. She booked the trip anyways, so I had to go.”
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Larry came back to Fresno on March 13th, 2020, for his annual doctor’s visit.
“Three days after I got back they closed the border to China,” said Stevens.
Stevens was stranded with nowhere to live, little money, and no job.
“I was not panicked because in 2003 in Bejing they had the SARS epidemic and it was nothing,” said Stevens. “I thought it would be no more than a month and then they would open up the borders and I could get a plane ticket and go home.”
Stevens stayed in hotels but soon his money ran out and he was homeless.
“It has been a nightmare,” he said.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs put him up at the Veteran’s Plaza where he lives in an apartment with a roommate. He recently was hired at Planet Fitness and is working on moving into his own place.
The couple’s travel business went under due to the lack of traveling during the pandemic and Lily had to get a new job as a teacher.
Stevens said Lily is struggling financially.
“She cries a lot because he doesn’t have the money she needs,” said Stevens.
The married couple video chat twice a day, but after more than a year, the distance is taking a toll. Stevens is working on getting Lily a visa but has not been successful.
Immigration Lawyer Deepak Ahluwalia said because the U.S. Consulate stopped the visa process for more than a year there is a large backlog of cases.
“It has been terrible for a lot of our clients,” said Ahluwalia. “There was actually no clarity of what was going to happen.”
Ahluwalia said in April 2021 the process was reopened in a tiered priority system but is ever-changing.
Several of his clients, including siblings, spouses of U.S. citizens, and abroad students are in the dark on how long the process will take for their application to be approved.
Despite the setbacks, Stevens plans on doing anything in his power to reunite with his wife and hopefully lay down roots right here in Fresno.
“I want my wife to come.”