MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- The owner of Michael's Frozen Custard in Madison is closing one of its locations in September after his spouse was denied a Green Card.
Michael's Frozen Custard on Monroe Street is set to close Sept. 9, 2019 after the owner's spouse was denied a U.S. visa
Michael Dix opened the first Michael's Frozen Custard location on Monroe Street in 1986. He expanded his restaurant to two more locations, on Schroeder Road and Monona Drive. He later married Sergio De La O Hernandez in 2015, who had been living as an undocumented immigrant in Wisconsin for more than three decades.
According to the couple’s immigration attorney, Jessica Slind with Lofti Legal LLC., Dix sponsored Hernandez for a Green Card. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a Green Card, which is officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows people to live and work permanently in the United States.
Slind said Hernandez needed to go to the U.S. State Department consulate in Mexico for an interview.
“Because he has been in the U.S. so long without permission, he needed a waiver from the U.S. government, basically asking for forgiveness for having been here without permission, “said Slind. “Unfortunately, Michael and Sergio didn’t realize he needed that waiver until he got to the interview. So, at the interview when they thought it would be an easy case, they’re clearly married, they have the financial means to justify Michael sponsoring his spouse, they were told about the need for this waiver, and Sergio was not able to reenter the U.S. until they filed for this waiver and got approval.”
Slind said she was then contacted to help the couple through the Green Card process. She said after she helped them get the waiver and restarted the process, they were recently denied. She said Hernandez has an adult daughter from a previous relationship, who will play a factor in the process.
Slind said without Hernandez able to manage the business, and Dix flying back-and-forth between Mexico and Wisconsin, Michael’s Frozen Custard’s business began to decline. She said in the first five months of 2019, there was a 24% decline in business and the losses are growing. In order to stem the losses, Dix chose to close one location.
Dix released a statement that read:
“It is with a heavy heart that I will be closing the Monroe Street location—the first Michael’s location—on September 9th to prevent additional losses to our business. My separation from Sergio has been extremely painful for both of us and has been disastrous for my business.”
Slind said they are appealing the denial and hope they will get approval. Dix and Hernandez are currently in Mexico while the Green Card process continues.
“They thought it was low-risk in applying and going through the process because they qualified, they met all the criteria, it was a real marriage, Michael makes plenty to show he can sponsor and support his spouse, so they really saw no risk in doing it,” said Slind. “They wanted Sergio to get legal status so he wouldn’t have to be in the shadows, and he would have all the rights and responsibilities that residents and eventually citizens have.”
Slind said all Michael’s Frozen Custard locations could close if the appeal process is successful. She said Dix is planning to live permanently with his spouse in Mexico.
NBC15 reached out to the U.S. Department of State about Hernandez's Green Card process and application. A spokeswoman said the records are confidential under U.S. law and they cannot discuss individual cases.
To learn more about who is eligible for a Green Card and the procedures to apply, click here.