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LI Couple Fundraises Online to Fix Immigration Snafu
A Selden man and his fiancé have turned to online crowd-funding for help reuniting their family after the mother and the couple’s newborn baby were refused re-entry from Canada four months ago.
Jarrett Slionski, a 33-year-old barber, met his wife-to-be, Erzsebet Banyai, a 29-year-old Ottawa native, while she was living on Long Island and both were active in the local music scene. He eventually asked her to marry him and she had his baby in November. But because she had a high-risk pregnancy, she stayed longer than the six months her passport allowed—leading to her being turned away at the border in March when she tried to return to LI after visiting family in Canada.
“It’s the hardest thing in the friggin’ world,” Slionski, the singer/guitarist in the local punk band, Those Hated Hearts, said between hair cutting appointments. “I’m missing my daughter grow up.”
The couple quickly learned the only way they can legally be together and raise their daughter, Ryder, on LI is to get hitched. But they need help paying for the visa application and hiring an immigration lawyer.
Slionski set up a page on GoFundMe.com, a grassroots fundraising website, and was about a third of the way to reaching his goal of raising $2,500 as of Monday—contributions from 25 donors in 18 days ranging from $5 to $100.
He went to visit Banyai and their infant last month at her father’s house, where she’s currently staying. It was the first time he saw his baby girl and fiancé since she was 2 ½ months old. Still, he laments missing her learning to talk, crawl and walk.
Slionski is also raising his 7-year-old son, Kyllian, from a prior marriage. Kyllian also longs to be reunited with his little sister.
“The kid finally got a little sibling and she got taken away from him,” Slionski said. “He misses his little sister constantly.”