JoAnn Tidwell sat on her couch after nearly six months away from home and described to KARK the long, difficult journey she's taken with her daughter Kaiti to reach today.
"After all this time, In two months I believe Kaiti will be here with her papers," she said with a smile.
On Tuesday, the family learned Kaiti had been approved in Mexico for a visa to return to the United States.
Six months ago, KARK was the only crew there with cameras rolling as both Joann and Kaiti departed from the Little Rock airport, bound for Mexico, to keep Kaiti from being deported.
"We left without any guarantees, and we knew that," JoAnn said. "But we had decided if it didn't work out, we'd have to make our lives in Mexico. I'd have to sell everything here, and we'd have to do what we had to do. She couldn't have a life here."
Kaiti was born in Mexico, but she was never recorded as a citizen. She floated across the Rio Grande, much like a modern day Moses, at three months old with her migrant worker mother.
She was adopted by the Tidwells when she was seven. But when they worked to file for her citizenship, they discovered she was a girl with no country. Without having citizenship somewhere else, she couldn't immigrate here, technically.
"When we went to immigration, they said she didn't exist," JoAnn said. "They said she was like the air. That to them, she wasn't a person without the paperwork to prove it."
The Tidwells time in Mexico taking them from Vera Cruz to Cordoba and Mexico City.
"It's an amazing country. But where we've been it's incredibly primitive. We didn't have water but every other day. We had to wash clothes by hand. Whether you have cell phone service just depends on the day, and there were no TVs or radios," JoAnn said. "It was definite culture shock."
And there were plenty of roadblocks along the way.
"We've had so many stumbling blocks even in Mexico. We had people trying to quit us," Joann said. "People telling us it was impossible. Government offices saying it couldn't be done. But I knew it couldn't be impossible."
They spent two days in Mexico City calling phone numbers, until finally someone picked up on the other end.
"A woman picked up and put us in touch with a man at the embassy. He jumped through hoops for Kaiti. When he made the call to tell us it was time to apply for a visa, he said it was green lights all the way," JoAnn said.
During her time in Mexico, Kaiti was finally able to apply for a driver's license, and she was added to the country's census.
"When that happened, she wasn't a girl without a country anymore," JoAnn said. "Finally, her files were available. Now, the process is on go. She has to wait for a date in Juarez, and then within a month or so she'll receive her green card. She's on the way home."
Hearing Kaiti's voice over the phone, you wouldn't know the journey had been hard. You'd only know she was ecstatic.
"I'm so excited. I really am, because I'd like to be back before my birthday," she said.
On November 7, 2012, she'll turn nineteen. And if she's back in the United States, legally, she'll have done something not only for herself, but kids who know what it's like to stand in her shoes.
"I'm just a regular girl, but I hope I can help," she said. "All I can say is, it's hard, but in the long run it's definitely worth it. Definitely never give up. "
Kaiti still has to travel to Juarez, a war zone by most folks' standards, to do the official interview for the visa. Joann had to return to Arkansas for a family emergency, but Kaiti's boyfriend Arthur intends to travel to the appointment with her.
After the interview, Kaiti will be issued her visa. She'll return home to Arkansas, if all goes as planned, and receive her green card. That allows her to apply for residency, which could take up to five years to process.
So, while there are miles to go before they rest, for the Tidwells the end of this long road is finally within reach.
"It's been a journey, and we're not through. We're not through til she gets home," JoAnn said.
The family's travels to and within Mexico have depleted their funds. Friends who are hoping to help have set up a "Bring Kaiti Home Fund" for those that would like to contribute.
It's set up at Diamond Bank in Glenwood, account number 9235124. The Bring Kaiti Home Fund is in the care of Patsy Fox. If you'd like to contribute you can contact the bank by phone at (870) 356-212.