The image shows big, toothy smiles full of joy and clear, bright eyes full of hope.
Five years ago, Ross Solberg, his wife Hom, and their son Alan were a beautiful family of three looking to live an updated version of the American dream.
A Navy sailor on detachment to Thailand, Ross, a Vermillion native, met Hom at a barber shop. Three years passed before the two would be reconnected. Both were now stateside, Hom moving forward after a divorce, Ross thinking he wouldn't pass on his second shot at love.
But, this relationship wouldn't be easy.
"By the time we got married she was already deemed what would be called an illegal alien, so we tried to adjust her status here with what is called an I-130, which is an application to get your green card," said Ross.
That's when Ross and his family learned that deciphering paperwork would become their new norm.
"The process of immigration is very expensive and the paperwork is immense," said Teresa Jahn, Ross's mother.
Unwilling to truly contemplate, Ross guesses he's spent more than $10,000 on immigration layer fees and paperwork costs. But, that doesn't compare to the gaping hole in his heart
After a voluntary deportation, Hom is back in Thailand.
"Do you miss her?" Ross asked his son. Alan nodded as Ross said, "Yeah, me too."
The father and son haven't seen their wife and mom since the summer of 2012. Alan has been living with his grandparents here in South Dakota.
"Just making sure this little boy is safe and happy," said Teresa.
Ross travels for work, trying to support his family and using every means to get Hom back in the country, including reaching out to Senator Tim Johnson's office.
"Our goal, obviously, is to help out the constituents. If it's to reunite a family member or find a missing loved one somewhere," said Steven Dahlmeier, a staff assistant in Senator Johnson's office.
With their patience wearing thin, a bit of good news in December. Hom's hardship waiver, an I-601 had been approved, meaning she would be given a green card.
"That was a major breakthrough saying that yes she can come back. But, then there's a period of what next? My lawyers have been emailing the embassy as I have," said Ross.
Added Teresa, "Knowing that maybe we'll have a closure, knowing the waiver got approved was a huge thing. We had to prove that this was a hardship to keep this family apart which meant we wrote letters and letters."
So much time has passed that new paperwork now must be filed. It's an unending process that had KSFY wondering if this Navy veteran was conflicted about what he'd given to his country and what he'd received in return.
"It never changes my love of country or duty or anything like that. Conflicted in the process because I could be working hand over fist for the government, for the country, for the military something I would never take back, I would never change working so hard," said Ross. "But, at the same time they're not working hard for me for the simple request of being a family together."
The day when this family is reunited appears to be closer than ever before.
It's a simple request to recreate an image of a family of joy and hope.
"This family just needs to be together," said Teresa. "This little boy needs a mom and a dad."
Friday, August 1 2014 10:19 PM EDT2014-08-02 02:19:37 GMT
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