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Family's change of fortune after sharing story of job loss and visa woes

Immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede heard about what they were going through and worked for free to get the visa sorted quickly so Joel could start work.


Joel Macarubbo, Tarri Caraquez and their children Jeomille, 15, and Beau, 4 months, with Joel's new employer, Mike Milligan, co-founder of AIS Global. Photo / RNZ, Marika Khabazi


By Gill Bonnett of RNZ

December 18, 2021

Mother-of-two Tarri Caraquez was in lockdown in Auckland with her partner Joel Macarubbo, who had lost his job, a 4-month-old baby and no visa.

They were selling their belongings to pay for food, rent and nappies. They had been in New Zealand for more than a decade but were concerned they could be deported to the Philippines when their visa was rejected despite Joel's qualifications and experience as an electrical engineer.

But the family of four - baby Beau and 15-year-old daughter Jeomille - were overwhelmed with donations and offers of work and immigration advice after they shared their story.

In a rapid change of fortunes a month on, they are back on a firm footing and a fast track to residence.

"I would describe it as 'a new beginning'," Caraquez said.

"I felt that after our family was trying so long to reach for that residency, and only this year we stumbled into a bigger problem making us being in the brink of deportation and only now that our family was able to obtain this second chance. I truly think that this is where we can start over."

She paid tribute to the Migrant Action Trust, which made her story public, immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede, who took up their case and AIS Global, which offered Joel a job at its Auckland site.

The help and generosity were overwhelming for their family.

"When I met and conversed with everyone from the community who had helped and worried for us, I felt surprised and baffled. I didn't think that anyone was willing to help us without even meeting face-to-face and for that I was forever grateful," Caraquez said.

"And when Joel was able to receive a visa and a job, I felt that I could continue my life with my family here. I felt that my dream could be fulfilled, my daughter's dreams, my partner's dream. All of it, till this day I feel so overjoyed and relieved. Like again I'm truly very eternally grateful for all of the people that helped and supported us and for that, I thank and appreciate them with all my heart."

The emergency benefit for migrants had been stopped at the end of August, and lockdown brought more visa delays.

AIS Global co-founder Mike Milligan was among those who read Caraquez's story. He met them to offer food parcels and money for rent, and talked about work. He hired Joel the next day.

"We are very active within our Filipino communities within New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. So it obviously pulled on heartstrings in that story and I wanted to see what we could do to help," Milligan said.

"We basically tried to make sure that this time of the year wasn't going to be a sad time of year - one where they could actually put food on the table and keep the lights on.

"They're a proud, hardworking family, they're like 'all we want to do is sort of get back onto our own feet'. I'm not going to lie, it was quite emotional. They didn't want a handout, they were just stuck."

It was heartening to see the help they had been offered, and Joel had taken to his new role.

"He's definitely doing a great job already. He's a great guy and he's ripped into his new role and he's bringing his skills and experience, and with his work ethic we can tell that he's going to really reach the heights that we want him to within that division.

"It's nice to see communities come together in times like this because being involved in what we do in the community, obviously there's a lot of sad stories, but you see a lot of good in a lot of people as well."

The company is also sponsoring other families this Christmas through its AIS Compassion Movement and is preparing to send presents out to 150 children.

Immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede heard about what they were going through and worked for free to get the visa sorted quickly so Joel could start work.

Crucially, the family were able to qualify for fast-track residence when the second phase of the one-off visa opens in March.

The Migrant Action Trust's manager Amie Maga said it had been helping more than 100 migrants in hardship and it was great to hear such good news.

It's really the best Christmas present that a family could ever wish for," she said. "We are hopeful that more families will get their visa sorted hopefully before Christmas, so they'll be happy celebrating Christmas as well."



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