The call of duty can take soldiers away from their family for months at a time.
U.S. Army Specialist Andy Price and his wife, Hayley Collinge, have been away from each other for almost two months. They’ve been apart before, when Price, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, served in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, for nine months.
But this time it’s not the Army keeping them distanced; it’s the border between Canada and the United States.
They married last year, just a week before he was deployed. Collinge is a Canadian citizen who applied for American citizenship in April.
When she and Price went to Canada to visit her family for Halloween, everything seemed fine. But on the way back to the states, Collinge was told she couldn’t enter the country.
They didn’t know it, but because Collinge intended to leave Canada to live with her husband in the United States, she wasn’t allowed to return until her application for permanent residency was approved by federal officials, said their immigration attorney Greg McLawsen.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol would not answer questions about their specific case.
“Our job at the border is to enforce U.S. immigration law,” spokesman Michael Milne said. “On any given day we have 1 million people come into the U.S. Of those 1 million people, there are around 1,000 who won’t be admitted.”
On Sunday night, Price and McLawsen drove to the Canadian border to file paperwork that would allow Collinge to return home with her husband.
A policy enacted last month by the Obama administration says noncitizen spouses of military members can remain in the country while they pursue legal status.
“For military families, even if they entered the U.S. illegally, we grant them reprieve,” McLawsen said. Such a policy helps the service members focus on the mission instead of worrying about legal status for their family.
But that night, Price said the agency refused to even look at his paperwork.
Monday afternoon, Price learned that his wife’s wait might finally reach an end. McLawsen, who worked on the case for free, said the Border Patrol would allow her back into the U.S. – after he called congressional representatives and members of the media.
“It’s just so frustrating,” McLawsen said. “If he hadn’t had an attorney involved and some media spotlight on the truth of this matter, his application would’ve been sitting in the trash. That’s not how we should be treating our service members.”
Price said when Collinge heard the news Monday afternoon, she cried. The couple will spend a few days in Kamloops, B.C., with her family during Christmas, then return to the states.
The first thing she’ll do after they cross the border?
“She really misses her king-sized bed,” Price said. “That’s the only thing she keeps saying is, ‘I can’t wait to sleep in the bed again,’ to be able to relax by ourselves.”
As Price can attest, love knows no border.
“We are everywhere,” he said of military members. “We are all over the world. You don’t know who you are going to fall in love with or marry.”
Kate Martin: 253-597-8542 firstname.lastname@example.org