Families struggle to obtain emergency visas to see dying relatives in post-9/11 world

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ELMHURST, Queens — This is the tale of two families — each had a dying relative whose last wish was to see a much-loved family member who lived in another country just one last time.

One family got their dying wish.

"Thank you PIX11. I am so happy.," a jubilant Cherisse Robinson told PIX11.

One family did not.

This is the biggest failure for us as a family," Preet Singh told PIX11. "For me as a son, my mother took care of me for 22 years, that was the only thing she asked of me."

Preet's mother died of cancer while waiting for an emergency visa to be approved for her oldest daughter, a married mother of two who lives in New Delhi, India.

Her visa application had been turned down twice because of what many see as overzealous restrictions in this post-9/11 world.

"They tend to go overboard," Senator Chuck Schumer told PIX11. "It should be made a little easier."

Senator Schumer's office handles hundreds of emergency visa applications each year, usually with great success.

"I just want to see my sister one last time," Christopher Robinson said.

PIX11 reached out to the senator's office after hearing the sad saga of Christopher Robinson.

The 25-year-old Brooklyn man was in hospice care in the last stages of renal cancer. He had just a few weeks left to live.

Robinson wanted to say goodbye to his sister Michele in person, but the U.S. embassy in Guyana repeatedly turned down her emergency visa application.

"There was no reason to turn down her application," Senator Schumer said. "She had family to return to. She should have been allowed to come to this country."

So while there was a successful family reunion before Christopher Robinson passed away in Brooklyn, Darshan Kauer died in Queens surrounded by other family members, but not her oldest daughter.

Senator Schumer is now trying to make changes in the way the state department processes these emergency visa requests.
Part of the problem is each embassy in each country has different rules regarding visa applications. Also the state department emergency visa office is underfunded and understaffed and doesn't differentiate between time-sensitive medical emergencies, like a dying relative, and long-range personal requests, such as coming to this country for a wedding.

"We have to make changes here," Senator Schumer said.

The senator's office is seeking changes through both legislation and administrative. Senator Schumer's advice: if you have a relative who is ill and needs family members to get visas, start the process early before it's a medical emergency and it's too late!