RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - How do you get your social security benefits if you are an immigrant and your green card was taken away? A viewer Called 12 for help after finding out he could no longer receive social security, because of a drug conviction 12 years ago.
A green card holder is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in this country on a permanent basis. It's proof of their status.
William Perdomo committed a crime that changed his life. The Cuban immigrant went to prison for five years in 1998. He and his buddies snorted cocaine. Perdomo says they identified him as the honcho.
"It was me and four or five other guys," he says. "We hang out. We watch football games. Sometimes somebody would buy some and I would get some and we'd split it. But, they fingered me and my charges was conspiracy to distribute cocaine."
Perdomo did his time in Virginia and immigration prisons. In 2003, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released him and retrieved in his green card.
Perdomo says, "Immigration physically went into my wallet and they took the green card."
Fast forward through 12 years of living crime-free, raising a family, owning his own business, paying taxes. Not having a green card never concerned him, until Perdomo went to file for social security and was repeatedly told he didn't qualify for benefits without a green card.
He says, "I've been in this country 54 years. I've worked since I was 15 years old. I committed a crime. It's been so many years now. Could you give me back my green card, so I can get what I'm entitled to my social security that I've earned?"
On Your Side Investigator Diane Walker contacted numerous government agencies, including DOJ, Homeland Security, Social Security, and USCIS trying to get results for Perdomo.
It appears it's virtually impossible to get your green card back for a crime of moral turpitude or a controlled substance violation. Research shows though, waivers are granted, but I'm told only an immigration judge can do it. That's where I am now, working to get Perdomo heard.
"Why can't you give me my green card, so I can get my social security so I won't have to be a burden on my family when I get to a certain age?" he asks.
Perdomo says it feels like a life sentence and says if immigration will listen, they'll see he's not that guy anymore.
"I found God. I'll be honest with you, within six months when I was in prison. Every day I read the Bible and I thought about my family. I will never do anything to hurt them again, and I pray to God everyday that he will come into my heart and change me and he has."
A top official with the Social Security Administration says it will begin researching Perdomo's case to see what can be done to help him. NBC12 On Your Side Investigators will continue to work this and report any new developments.
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