Updated:WINTER PARK, Fla. —
The immigrant owners of a popular Orange County organic market could be sent packing after their green cards were denied by immigration officials.
For the past three years, Katja and Troy Gage have been running Eat More Produce, which employs about 20 workers and draws so many customers to its Winter Park location that they were getting ready to expand.
But Channel 9 learned the Canadian couple was told they don't employ the right kind of workers in order to stay in the U.S. and they had their green card denied by immigration officials because their business didn't meet the necessary requirements.
Eat More Produce offers fresh fruit, vegetables, a deli, wine and specialty foods.
"Our sales are growing," said Katja Gage.
Now on their third L1A work visa, the Gages applied for permanent residency. But even after submitting 10 pounds worth of documents to immigration officials to show they were a viable business, the government sent them a denial letter last week.
Citizenship and Immigration Services sent them an eight-page explanation, saying they don't qualify because their 17 employees aren't considered professionals.
For example, the employees don't hold jobs as engineers, lawyers or physicians, as required to help secure a green card.
Now, the couple has three weeks to pack up and head back to Canada.
"Our employees find that insulting," said Troy Gage.
Faithful customers are now signing a petition and calling on elected leaders for help.
"We're working toward that American dream everyone talks about and the politicians talk about, but it's different when it comes down to executing it," said Troy Gage.
Gage said he has called Florida senators and Rep. John Mica for help.
The Gages now plan on hiring a lawyer and appealing the government's decision.