Her parents had brought her to the United States illegally at the age of 7. Although Reyes-Neal was an American citizen, their marriage didn't automatically give Nava legal status, so she still faced possible deportation.
So the 18-year-old couple began navigating the intricate U.S. citizenship laws and regulations without the help of a costly lawyer. When Nava tried to apply for citizenship, she learned that federal law said she had to leave the United States and barred her from returning for up to 10 years because she had resided in the country illegally.
She could apply for a hardship waiver requesting that U.S. immigration officials not separate her from her husband and child, both American citizens. But she had to file that waiver in her birth country, and that meant packing up and moving to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Every year, more than 100,000 people travel to the U.S. consulate in Juarez to attain legal status. The consulate was set up to handle the permanent immigration visas years ago before the city became so violent.
Immigration attorney Shawn Mead calls the policy a perfect catch-22.
"It's an impossible situation: They have the option of staying here unlawfully, not being able to get their residence now or ever, or going and living in the city of Juarez, a place where people do get murdered all the time," Mead said.
Nava left her husband and young son in Aurora and attempted to live in her native Mexico, where she felt like a foreigner. She lived with her grandmother in Juarez, where more than 3,000 people were murdered in 2010. Last year, that number fell to just below 2,000 -- the first time the murder rate has dropped in four years.
"I am living with my wife and son in perilous and very dangerous conditions in Juarez, Mexico. We live with fear of our lives on a daily basis," he wrote. "As U.S Citizens, my son and I are facing extreme danger everyday we wake up in one of the most violent cities in the world."
His plea went unanswered, and within six months, Reyes-Neal's fear proved prophetic. He was shot more than 80 times outside the family's home. Nava's uncle was also killed in the attack. The motive was unclear, although the family suspects robbery.
More here: Dangerous path to legal status for some immigrants - CNN.com