OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Angelica Pereira is a teacher, a professional violinist with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and a Latin Grammy-award winning musician.
She is also in danger of being deported to Colombia.
Pereira started playing when she was just 4 years old in her native country, Colombia.
At 18 years old, she moved to Oklahoma for a full ride scholarship at Oklahoma City University.
Her status as an immigrant was protected by her student visa.
“I have always believed this is a nation that awards merit and that applauds people who are hard working, and I believe that absolutely. I still do,” Pereira said. “This is a great country. That’s why I want to stay here!”
Pereira earned three degrees at OCU, two bachelors and a masters.
She was hired by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in 2009 which qualified Pereira for a work visa.
This year, she took the next step: filing for permanent residency under the Extraordinary Abilities Green Card (EB1) program.
Despite dozens of support letters outlining her contributions to the orchestral community in Oklahoma, including one from Senator Jim Inhofe, her application was denied.
Her contemporaries were shocked at the denial because the philharmonic employes a number of immigrant artists; other musicians, from Poland and Russia have been approved to stay.
“There could be many reasons,” said Tomasz Zieba, OKC Philharmonic Assistant Principal Cello. “It’s very shocking to me. It depends on the immigration officer who reviews your package. Sometimes they just don’t know very much about music and musicians.”
Pereira pays taxes. She owns a home near the university where dozens of supporters gathered Tuesday to hold signs in support with messages like, “Angelica deserves to stay” and “Angelica is making America great.”
“This country opened the doors, and put me on a pedestal, filled me with awards and said, ‘You’re worthy. Your merits are valuable. We value your talent. We value your passion. We value what you bring with you. We want to keep you,’ and then, not any longer.”
Pereira has been told she needs to leave the country this week.
She bought a plane ticket to Colombia for Friday, but her flight was recently cancelled because of COVID-19.
She rescheduled her flight for the next available date, in order to remain in compliance with U.S. Immigration law.
She cannot file her appeal until she is lawfully out of the country and back in Colombia.
Colleagues at the OKC Philharmonic are gathering signatures on a Change.org petition to support their friend’s effort to stay in the U.S.
Oklahoma City University issued this statement:
“Oklahoma City University has an established practice of supporting our foreign national faculty and staff through nonimmigrant and immigrant employment visas. While it is our stance to be as supportive in this process as possible, the university is required to comply with all regulations bearing on nonimmigrant and immigrant visa (green card) sponsorship and follows the letter and spirit of the law. To sponsor a foreign national for an immigrant visa, the university is required to prove that there is a bona fide, full-time permanent offer of employment and that there are no U.S. workers ready, willing and minimally qualified for the underlying position. Ms. Pereira has never been a full-time employee of the university and the university has never been in a position to sponsor her immigrant employment visa.”
- Man charged with killing wife in Missouri after 4 prior domestic reports
- Tampa International to be first US airport to offer COVID-19 testing in terminal
- Mickey: Cowboys licking their wounds
- Man charged with rape after 13-year-old girl taken from Nashville Walmart
- Study shows link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s