Constance Jordan who lost her husband of 30 years last May, cried all day after learning she may be deported.
The 57-years-old Florida native vowed to fight a decision to deny her leave to stay in Derry as the bereaved widow of Martin Jordan who died from throat cancer last year.
Constance broke down in tears after reading a letter from the Home Office’s Visas & Immigration section which dropped through her Hawthorn Drive letter box last Thursday.
“I cried all day in between trying to contact people,” she said.
The letter advised that her application for settlement in Derry was refused and that she was now likely to be removed from the jurisdiction.
“I’ve two weeks to file for an Administrative Review,” she told the ‘Journal’.
The Home Office has stated that on the nine times Constance has entered the UK since 1988, she’s done so as a visitor.
And under their rules in order to be entitled to “indefinite leave to remain as a bereaved partner,” Mrs. Jordan’s last period of “limited leave” would have had to have been as a “spouse or bereaved partner.
“Although your partner has died, as you did not have leave as a spouse or bereaved partner,” Constance was bluntly told, she did not qualify for bereavement status.
At this point it’s useful to back up in order to consider the depth of Constance’s and Martin’s relationship that stretched back half a century until the 57-years-old Lecky Road man’s untimely death last year.
“We met when we were kids. They [the Jordans] were in Florida for a couple of years and I met the family back in 1975,” explained Constance, who grew up in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Davie.
Aged just 14 and 15 respectively Constance and Martin became childhood sweethearts.
“I was friends with his sisters and him and we were boyfriend and girlfriend. They went back to Derry in 1976 and we wrote letters,” she recalled.
The long distance correspondence continued for a decade until Constance finally made it to Derry and rekindled their teenage romance in February, 1988.
“Our relationship was still strong and he came to the States a few months later in June of 1988,” she said.
Within months Martin and Constance were wed by the legendary Offaly-born ‘King of Davie’ - the late Fr. Gabriel O’Reilly - in St. David’s Catholic Church.
“We got married in September, 1988, at the church his family started in the 1970s with Fr. Gabriel in Davie. He married us,” she recalled.
The newly-weds set up home in Florida and Martin found work as a researcher. A few years later they had their son Andrew in 1991 and decided to give life in Derry a try.
“We moved here in 1992, right before ‘Hurricane Andrew’ [one of the worst storms ever to make landfall in Floridian history]. So, we were here for about six months.
“We were living with his parents. Martin was a research chemist and he never got a job interview. After six months of not getting housing or anything we moved back to the States because they offered him his old job back,” said Constance.
Returning to the US in 1993, they led a happy family life raising their two children Andrew and Elatia until tragedy struck just over a decade ago.
“We lost our son in October 2007, to Leukaemia. He died within four months,” Constance noted.
They never recovered from the loss of their 16-years-old boy but did their best to carry on until devastation arrived at their door for a second time five years ago.
Constance said: “Martin was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. We’d been living in Florida until his cancer diagnosis. He got a message from his older sister. ‘Mammy’s got your ticket, come home for treatment.’ He was gone two days later in January, 2015, to be here.
“I came here for his birthday in 2015 and then he came back for the holidays. We were trying to see how to make this work. When I came here in May of 2017, I had downsized from our house and so everything was in storage.
“I just came here with a round-trip ticket not knowing what was going to happen, what we were going to do. Once I was here I realised I’d got nothing to lose, I needed to be with my husband.
“I sold my car and paid for our stuff to be shipped over. I took care of him for that year. He was diagnosed on his mother’s [Nancy] birthday in August 2014. He passed away in May, 2018.”
Constance said that during the time she had been attempting to cope with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis, her visa status had been of little concern. She had other things on her mind.
“He passed away in the Foyle Hospice. The same room as his dad. He was there for three days. It was shocking that death came so quickly.
“Then his mother passed away three months later. Same thing. It was just quick. I was there when my husband passed away. He took his last breath and I was there when my mother-in-law passed and I was there when my son passed away,” she said.
The negotiation of a byzantine immigration bureaucracy had certainly not been top of her list of priorities.
“We didn’t know where to go. It was between doctors’ visits, hospital stays. We were trying to find all of this out but then time got away because of his illness,” she maintained.
According to their records UK Visas & Immigration have no record of Constance’s six month sojourn in Derry in 1992/3. But surely, she asked the ‘Journal’, natural justice would dictate that she should have been conferred some sort of residency entitlement?
“Thirty years of marriage to an Irishman. I came here and decided to stay with him and because I’d lived here before, I didn’t think it would be an issue.
“My daughter was in school here. My son was a baby. My husband got benefits. So that’s why I’m fighting now.”
Constance said she has been overwhelmed by the support of local people.
“I can’t believe the people who are rallying around me. My neighbours are all getting together. My neighbours are saying they’ll have signs saying, ‘Hell no, she won’t go!’”
Constance remains determined to fight any attempt to deport her and is even working on a one woman show called ‘Good Grief’ about ‘Turning Devastation into Celebration’ that will be premiering on May 12, 2019, on her late son Andrew’s birthday, the play having been designed to help people deal with grief.
The ‘Journal’ put Constance’s case to the Home Office but at the time of going to Press last night, no response was forthcoming.