The U.S. government has once again reaffirmed its eagerness to split up non-white immigrant families rather than focusing deportation efforts on dangerous criminals and gang members, as the Trump administration frequently claims.
On Friday, the government deported 38-year-old Alejandra Juarez, a mother of two who is married to a U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran. She had been living in the U.S. for nearly two decades and had been checking in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement every six months. Not even the intervention of her Florida congressman, Darren Soto, could stop her deportation.
“My mom is a good person. She’s not a criminal,” Juarez’s 16-year-old daughter Pamela said, sobbing, at Orlando International Airport before her mother’s departure to Mexico.
Pamela will remain in the U.S. with Juarez’s husband, Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico who served a two-year combat deployment in Iraq with the Marine Corps Reserve. Temo, who describes himself as a conservative, voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The couple’s other daughter, Estela, who is 8, traveled to Mexico with her mother.
Alejandra’s lawyers said she was deported because of Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
“Mr. President, you deporting me is not going to hurt just me; you’re making a veteran suffer,” she said, according to Reuters. “You always say you love veterans. If you really love veterans, why didn’t you pardon me?”
Alejandra first attempted to enter the U.S. in 1998 by “falsely claiming” she was a U.S. citizen, according to the Sentinel. She was sent back to Mexico. In the process, she unwittingly signed documents that prohibited her from any path to legal status. According to her lawyer, Richard Maney, Alejandra told authorities she had been a student in Memphis, TN. Customs and Border Patrol agents took that statement as a false claim that she was a citizen, according to The Guardian.
Alejandra soon traveled back into the U.S. without immigration documents and married Temo in 2000. In 2001, she unsuccessfully tried to start the process for becoming a citizen, The Guardian said. Over a decade later, in 2013, she was discovered to be undocumented during a traffic stop, while living in Central Florida with her family.
She was released under ICE’s supervision, which required her to check in with the agency twice a year. For years, the government considered Alejandra a low priority for deportation. Then, Trump became president and launched his sweeping anti-immigrant crackdown, ripping apart countless families across the nation.
Soto, a Democratic lawmaker, wrote letters to ICE officials on Alejandra’s behalf, appealed to the Trump administration to intervene, and introduced a bill to allow her back into the U.S. None of these efforts could stop her deportation on Friday.
“It’s an absolute disgrace by the Trump administration to be deporting a patriotic spouse,” Soto said, according to The Guardian. “Her husband, Temo, served in the marines while she was on the home front, raising two young women. What justice does this serve?”
“Just when you think your jaw can’t drop again...This is how we honor our soldiers?” tweeted Sen. Bob Menendez.