CHICAGO (CBS) — As the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate amid growing political unrest due to a bitter power struggle, a Chicago native is trying to help bring a young musician and his talents to the U.S.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us in Paul Garcia’s life as a refugee. The former professional symphony musician turned high school music teacher and street performer has said he can never return to his native Venezuela.
Now living in a modest apartment in Peru, Garcia and his family fled Venezuela after a regime change.
“The situation of Venezuela are terrible,” he said.
Garcia said the fact he worked for the government made him scared to stay in Venezuela.
His American friend, Karianne Silva, a missionary originally from Chicago, has been trying to help Garcia bring his gift of music to the U.S. through a so-called “Einstein Visa” – an employment-based Green Card available to foreigners who demonstrate exceptional ability in their field.
“I wrote to over 200 lawyers in the Chicagoland area,” she said.
Garcia and his band has traveled to Aruba, Cuba and France to teach the world about Venezuelan folk music.
“Imagine the platform that he could have if he can get to the States and go from there,” Silva said.
Silva tried to find someone to review the Garcias’ paperwork at a discount or pro bono but found no takers.
“Even though we don’t have to have a lawyer looking through the pages of this stuff, I don’t feel comfortable turning it in without a lawyer looking over it,” she said. “It’s their job. They know what they’re doing. They know what the government’s looking for, and I don’t want to hold this family’s opportunity back by a fault of mine.”
So she tried to ask for donations online, but her GoFundMe page was initially removed because Venezuela is “a country that is not supported” by the platform.
“Every step of the way, it’s roadblock after roadblock after roadblock,” Silva said.
Meantime, Garcia played on, scraping together any money he can save from his job as a high school music teacher. He makes $10 per day.
“These are educated people. They have bachelor’s, master’s degrees,” Silva said.
Garcia said he’s living as frugally as possible in Peru to save up.
A visa costs $1,500 in addition to the price of plane tickets and attorney’s fees.
“My family too would like to go to USA for live, for a better future,” Garcia said.
Silva’s GoFundMe page for Silva is back up and running, but so far has raised only about $250 of Silva’s $7,000 goal.