FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A farmworker father is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a new green card after a 12-year wait in Mexico. The Michoacan native has been back in Fresno for less than 2 weeks.

“I still can’t believe it,” shared Luis Roa Miranda in Spanish. 

“That is incredible that this couple stayed together,” his lawyer, Jeremy Clason, said of Roa’s long-distance marriage to Maribel Arellano Ramos. “It gives you a good feeling to know you’re helping families stay together.”

“It was so hard to be away from him, raising my kids here,” said Arellano.

She’s a U.S citizen, and when she married Roa in 2006, another lawyer told him he needed to do the immigration interview in Juarez, Mexico.

The problem was he had entered the country illegally on two separate occasions. Because of that, the U.S. government banned him for 10 years.

“He would’ve never gone down there had he spoken to a lawyer who knew what they were talking about,” said Clason, who took the case four years ago. 

Roa said being away from his family was hard; Maribel also works in the fields and would visit him every two years or so. Right now, his one-year-old thinks of him as a stranger.

When the 10 years were coming up, Covid hit and the case stalled for another two years. Plus, they had to clear his name and prove he had been in Mexico all along because someone was using his identity.

“The [immigration] officer thought he had multiple convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, which was not the case,” said Clason. 

But after all that, Roa shared he’s ready to celebrate with his loved ones to make up for the lost time.