Last Friday, De La Cruz and Kolken, who is based in Buffalo, N.Y., presented the case by phone to an asylum officer who granted De La Cruz the opportunity to argue for "relief from removal" before an immigration judge.
"The judge will decide if he'll be able to receive protection from the United States," Kolken told Seven Days. "We are just keeping our fingers crossed," he added.
A date and place for the hearing have yet to be set, according to Kolken.
De La Cruz was deported in 2005 while he lived in New York. He returned to the U.S. that same year, settled in the Panton-Vergennes area and eventually married Kirsten Lee, an American citizen. De La Cruz never got a green card or other documents he needed to reside in the U.S.
Kirsten has four children from a previous marriage while the couple have two children together. They also own a small farm and Juan works as a meat cutter. Kirsten runs a home day care.
Kirsten expressed joy after hearing the news Thursday. She said she worries about making ends meet if Juan must leave the country — and the danger he could face in a Mexico she described as "controlled by cartels."
"I'm still nervous. It's good news that it's going in the direction that it should, but I'm still scared to death," she said. "We still have a judge that has to make a decision. I don't want to get my hopes up for anything and then not have it happen."
The community has rallied to support the De La Cruz family, raising about $19,000 on a GoFundMe page to help with mounting legal costs.
Courtesy: Kirsten De La Cruz
Juan (left) and Kirsten (center) De La Cruz with their children