Health & Science

Pasco man may be infected with swine flu

A Pasco man is in a Denver hospital with suspected swine flu after he traveled to Mexico to apply for permanent residency for his wife, his attorneys said Wednesday.

His wife, meanwhile, is stuck in Mexico, unable to return because her application was denied.

The man, Juventino Hernandez, 62, may die from his sickness, said Kripa Upadhyay, an attorney with Carney & Marchi, which has offices in Seattle and Kennewick.

"Given his fragile condition prior to his departure and his severity of symptoms that have been commonly associated with swine flu, we just don't know if he is going to make it," Upadhyay said.

There are five suspected cases of swine flu in Colorado. Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are awaiting test results on the cases from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Associated Press reported.

Hernandez traveled to Juarez, Mexico, with his wife, Maria Napoles Bernal, for her interview at the U.S. consulate April 23. Hernandez is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but his wife lived in Pasco as an illegal resident.

Hernandez was told to be there for the interview even though he was in poor health to begin with and despite the fact U.S. citizens typically aren't required to go to the consulate when their spouses are applying for entry, Upadhyay said.

He reportedly suffers from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a heart condition and kidney problems. He has a defibrillator implant, receives kidney dialysis and under normal circumstances stays in bed and is on a restricted diet, she said.

He worked as a machine operator at IBP from 1992 to 2005, before his health declined. He and Napoles Bernal were married in Pasco in 2002, and she spends all her time caring for him, Upadhyay said.

The attorneys are at a loss why he was required to go to Mexico in the first place.

"I think that the swine flu issue had already broken out when he was made to go down there," Upadhyay said. "So it's not like the embassy officials were ignorant of the threat."

They're also upset with the way the consular officer handled Napoles Bernal's application.

The officer reportedly said she needed to present 100 pictures of their wedding and prove the marriage was bona fide, even though the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services already recognized it as such. The officer also required evidence that Hernandez had called Napoles Bernal and sent money to her while she was in Mexico, Upadhyay said.

"None of which is required by the law. None of this is required," she said.

The consulate's decision on the application is final and can't be appealed, but the law office is working to see if any other options are available that would allow Napoles Bernal to re-enter the country.

If she's to see Hernandez again, there may not be much time.

"We're not sure if he is going to make it through. It does not seem like he will," Upadhyay said. "And it's just an awful situation for somebody his age to have been put in to begin with."

* Joe Chapman: 509-582-1512; jchapman@tricityherald.com

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