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Kentucky woman brought to US from Mexico at 4 years old seeking path to citizenship

By Sheree Paolello

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    HEBRON, Kentucky (WLWT) — Most Democrats and Republicans agree that solutions are needed, but some issues aren’t always black and white.

Jeni Jimenez-Solis is the gray area of the immigration fight. She was 4 years old when she first arrived in the US with her mom and 2-year-old little sister. Despite being so young, Jimenez-Solis still remembers flashes of that terrifying night.

“It was late at night. It was dark because you can only cross during the nighttime, and we had to cross the river,” Jimenez-Solis said. “So I remember my mother had to swim across the river and me and my little sister were essentially just on a float. And, you know, you kind of forget about it. Once you’re here, once you start living your life here, you forget about how you had to come here and how scary it actually is and how traumatizing it is.”

Jimenez-Solis has never been back to Mexico. She grew up in Northern Kentucky, started school in kindergarten, and 12 years later, graduated from Conner High School.

“I just never spoke about it. I never talked about it. If they would ask, yes. I’m here. I’m an American. I’m from here. But I’m really not and I buried that in the back of my mind,” Jimenez-Solis said.

After graduating from high school and having a little boy of her own, Jimenez-Solis said the American dream started to fade.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I always wanted to be something bigger, because, you know, my stepdad was in the restaurant business. My mom cleaned houses, and I wanted to be something more than that,” Jimenez-Solis said.

Without citizenship, everything is on hold.

“You know I could never go to college. I could never study at a university. I could never really accomplish those dreams here because, I have no opportunity,” Jimenez-Solis said.

Her mom and sister are in the middle of getting their residency, but because Jimenez-Solis was over 18 when she started to apply, she had to go through the immigration process on her own. She applied for asylum because her son was born here, and while she waited, she was granted work authorization. Republic Bank hired Jimenez-Solis, and over two years, she was promoted multiple times.

Rachel Strunk, a vice president for Republic Bank, says Jimenez-Solis was the perfect employee.

“She’s dedicated to get it done right; always willing to help someone, even if it’s not necessarily her job,” Strunk said.

But a few months ago, when Jimenez-Solis’s asylum was denied, her work authorization was revoked, and her work family was crushed.

“We will do anything that we can to help her and should she get this matter settled, we plan to welcome her back,” Strunk said.

Jimenez-Solis knows this is a controversial issue, but she’s tired of hiding.

“It’s emotional because when you come here, your parents are constantly telling you, we’re here to give you a better life. We’re here so you can have more opportunities,” Jimenez-Solis said.

WLWT anchor Sheree Paolello sat down with Jimenez-Solis for a candid and, at times, emotional interview. She asked her why she wanted to talk on camera, knowing this is a highly controversial issue across the U.S. right now. Jimenez-Solis admits it was a hard decision.

“It’s scary. I’m not going to lie. It’s very scary but I think that I’m not the only one who is in this position,” Jimenez-Solis said.

So now, she starts the immigration process all over again, and she prays that someone in Washington will listen.

“We need action. We don’t need any more words. We don’t need any more false hope or false promises,” Jimenez-Solis said. “There are so many people that are in my position, and we are just stuck.”

Paolello reached out to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Jimenez-Solis ‘local congressman, Thomas Massie. For weeks, she tried to get some sort of resolution.

Beshear’s spokeswoman said they were aware of Jimenez-Solis’ case, but they have to go through the federal channels, so there was nothing they could do.

McConnell’s office did not respond to multiple messages and Massie’s office said, “As a matter of privacy, they could not comment further.”

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