Corina Turcinovic is officially out of the shadows.
Turcinovic — a French woman who’s lived in the Beverly neighborhood for close to 30 years — recently got her green card in the mail after almost being deported earlier this summer.
Immigration officials ordered Turcinovic, 55, to leave the country in July after being denied a green card in March. Her lawyers filed an emergency motion to delay the deportation, arguing her application had been dismissed in an “arbitrary and capricious” way.
Officials agreed to review her case, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. And in August, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reversed course and made Turcinovic a U.S. permanent resident. She couldn’t wait to celebrate. In an email, she wrote: “It’s a bit surreal to go from alien to permanent resident between Independence Day and Labor Day!”
Turcinovic was ordered deported in May 1990 for traveling to the U.S. without a visa.
But the government allowed her to stay in the country to take care of her fiancé, Marin, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a drunken driver hit him while on tour with his rock band in New Jersey. The couple moved to Chicago in October 1990 and married in 1996. Turcinovic took care of him around the clock until he died in 2004.
Shortly before his death, Turcinovic’s husband was in line to become a U.S. citizen when officials requested he appear in person to be fingerprinted — something he couldn’t do because of his paraplegia. Officials tossed his application after he failed to appear.
That would’ve allowed Turcinovic to fix her legal status as the widow of a U.S. citizen.
Instead, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Turcinovic in December 2007 and sent her to a nearby detention center. ICE released her a month later only after Rep. Dan Lipinski intervened.
ICE allowed Turcinovic to stay in the country on a yearly basis — until March, when officials denied her green card application, citing the deportation order from 1990.
Turcinovic’s appeal of the decision went nowhere. In May, Lipinski filed a “private bill” that would naturalize Turcinovic’s immigration status. A month later, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., head of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, wrote a letter to ICE in support of Lipinski’s bill, contending ICE’s reluctance to allow Turcinovic to stay in the country was “clear evidence of the senselessness of this administration’s cruel and unforgiving immigration policies.”
ICE didn’t budge and ordered Turcinovic to leave the country by July 8.
That’s when Turcinovic’s lawyer, Scott Pollock, filed an emergency motion to stop the deportation a week before she was supposed to leave the country, arguing it’s the government’s fault she didn’t become a permanent resident sooner.
“Corina’s case is a significant example of what can be achieved when someone decides to challenge an injustice by going to court,” Pollock said. “Sad to say, but under this Administration, suing ... ICE or USCIS has become the only way to shine a light on these cases so they get the attention they deserve.”
Turcinovic will soon move to Florida with her second husband, Robert Wesche, 70, a retired financial consultant. The couple is also planning a trip across the pond.
“Our first trip will be to Europe, to visit all the relatives and friends I haven’t seen in almost 30 years. And to introduce Wes to them,” she said.
Carlos Ballesteros is a corps members of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.