By Craig Sailor / The News Tribune
An infant and his father separated by an international border and COVID-19-induced bureaucracy were reunited last week in the United States after the boy was granted his U.S. passport.
Lucas Johnsen-Ayala was born April 2 to dad Aaron Johnsen and mother Karla Ayala in Culiacan, Mexico.
Johnsen grew up in Tacoma. He moved to Colorado in 2018 for a construction safety job. Ayala is a Mexican citizen.
The couple met online and began dating in 2015. Their son was automatically a U.S. citizen at birth but still needed proper documentation to enter the United States.
Normally, those documents would be processed at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City or one of several U.S. consulates. But, COVID-19 shut down U.S. diplomatic posts around the world.
The couple started the paperwork as soon as they obtained Lucas’ birth certificate in June but were soon faced with closed doors and unresponsive officials.
For Lucas, traveling between Mexico and the United States without proper documentation could mean being stopped at the border going either direction.
On July 3, Lucas was issued a Mexican passport and the couple sent in an application for Lucas’ Report of Birth Abroad to the U.S. consulate in Hermosillo. But, immigration processing had ground to a halt and Johnsen found it difficult to visit Mexico due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
Johnsen asked Colorado U.S. Rep. Jason Crow for help. Crow, a Democrat, filed a congressional inquiry into Lucas’ predicament. Johnsen thinks that lit a fire under someone.
In early October, Lucas received his U.S. passport, and the family quickly made plans for a reunion.
Last week, Lucas and Ayala arrived in Tijuana and met Johnsen. But, more COVID-19 restrictions awaited them.
“When we got to the border, they said you can’t cross on foot if you’re a Mexican citizen right now,” Johnsen said Tuesday. The baby could cross but Ayala, using a travel visa, could not.
However, flying in to the U.S. on a visa is allowed. The threesome quickly booked a flight to Cabo San Lucas and then caught a flight to Denver.
The family was finally together on U.S. soil.
“Overwhelming joy is the best way to put the feeling,” Johnsen said Tuesday.
The couple had a non-legal religious marriage ceremony in Mexico in November. They have applied for a fiance visa, which they are told is a faster process toward getting Ayala her green card.
The family will return to Mexico for Christmas.