He would later learn his parents went three years without water or electricity.
Gomez dove into his businesses classes in hopes of landing a job on Wall Street.
It didn’t take long. The summer before his senior year, he won a competitive summer internship with JPMorgan Chase in New York City. He received a stipend of about $10,000.
“It was a lot more money than I had ever earned,” he said. “Obviously, with that I was able to send a good portion to my parents.”
At the end of the summer, Gomez was offered a full-time job with the company upon graduation. He returned to Georgetown to finish his senior year with a newfound sense of relief and optimism of the future.
“The weight was completely off my shoulders,” he said.
Gomez graduated magna cum laude and then relocated permanently to New York City. He won’t say what his salary was, but it was enough to rent a Manhattan apartment and send money to his parents in Colombia. He was also able to buy a new Honda Civic for his brother Alex, as well as pay Alex’s tuition bill at Miami Dade College.
With his job requiring long hours — often from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. — Gomez cut back on his lobbying efforts.
Meanwhile, the proposed Dream Act continued to stall in Congress. But as the 2012 presidential election neared, Obama offered up a surprise change in U.S. immigration policy.
Through his own power as president, Obama ordered the creation of a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It was not the permanent immigration reform Gomez had hoped for, but it would enable him to continue living and working in the United States for another two years.
Gomez filed his DACA application at the end of January.
His attorney said she was advised it would take three months to process because Gomez already had a work permit. But three months came and went.
In May, Gomez’s existing work permit expired. He was put on unpaid leave at JPMorgan Chase.
Weeks , then months, passed without a paycheck. Gomez continued sending money to his parents in Colombia and his brother in Miami.
“I was bleeding money, and I had no idea when I would be able to work again,” he said.
When a recruiter from a Brazilian investment firm called, Gomez listened to the pitch. He accepted the offer in late July, and packed his belongings in August.
“My priority is to support my parents,” he said. “I can’t have anything standing in the way, even the U.S. government.”
When contacted by the Miami Herald about Gomez’s application, Ana Santiago, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said she could not comment on individual cases. She said DACA applications are currently taking six months to process.
Patrick Taurel, of the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration group in Washington, said he has heard of some cases pending for nine months.
“But by and large, the agency deserves credits for the speed at which they rolled out this program,” he said.
Immigration hardliners say it ought to take longer.
“If anything, these applications are being processed too quickly with too little scrutiny,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “Very few people are even interviewed. It’s all done through the mail.”
Krikorian said an application would be held up for nine months only “if there had been a red flag.”
But Gomez’s attorney is still puzzled.
“There was no reason to believe he wasn’t going to get approval in a timely, reasonable manner,” Little said. “He was clearly eligible. He paid his fees, all the documentation was submitted, and there was still no answer.”
For Gomez, the pay in São Paulo is comparable to what it was in New York. But life in Brazil’s largest city has been lonely. Gomez doesn’t speak Portuguese. He misses the conveniences of Miami and New York City, and being able to watch the Green Bay Packers and New York Yankees on TV.
He tries not to think about the United States, the country he calls home. Even visiting would be a challenge. Non-citizens who overstay their visas can be barred from returning for a decade.
Still, Gomez doesn’t regret the decision to leave.
“If I didn’t make this move, I’d still be in New York not working,” he said. “I had no path in the United States.”
If there is a silver lining, it came last week in the form of a visit from his parents. It was the first time he had seen them since 2007.
The family spent Sunday afternoon in a public park, wandering the grounds and making up for lost time.
Gomez called it his happiest day in more than six years.