US immigration

With options exhausted, wife of US Marine veteran ‘self-deports’ to Mexico

A 2013 traffic stop culminates in the splitting up of a family under Trump’s policy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 August, 2018, 4:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 August, 2018, 5:50am

The 16-year-old American daughter of a US Marine veteran held back tears as long as she could on Friday before her family was split in two.

Her mother, Alejandra Juarez, was finally leaving for Mexico, rather than be sent off in handcuffs, after exhausting all options to stop her deportation.

“My mom is a good person. She’s not a criminal,” Pamela said, cursing at the immigration agency before her mother checked in for her flight from Orlando International Airport.

Alejandra and Temo Juarez, a naturalised citizen who runs a roofing business, quietly raised Pamela and their 9-year-old daughter, Estela, in the central Florida town of Davenport until a 2013 traffic stop exposed Alejandra’s legal status.

Afterward, she regularly checked in with US Immigration and Customs officials, which typically went after higher-priority targets such as people with criminal records.

Temo did not figure his vote for US President Donald Trump would affect the family personally. That was before the enforcement of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.

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Now, the Juarez family will be divided in two: Estela will join her mother in Mexico after she gets settled, while Temo cares for Pamela and pays the bills.

Alejandra, 39, petitioned to become a citizen in 2001 but was rejected because she was accused of making a false statement at the border when she sought asylum in 1998, said her lawyer, Richard Maney.

Maney said Juarez was asked about her citizenship and told authorities she had been a student in Memphis, Tennessee, for a short time, so border officials apparently thought she was falsely claiming to be an American citizen.

“This is not going to be the last case like this,” Maney said. “This is potentially the first of many. There are many military spouses in the same situation.”

US Representative Darren Soto, a Democrat who could not get the votes in Congress for legislation to allow Juarez to remain, called her situation disgraceful.

“We’re not going to give up,” he told her with a hug at the airport.

“It’s an absolute disgrace by the Trump administration to be deporting a patriotic spouse,” Soto said. “Her husband, Temo, served in the Marines … while she was at home on the home-front, raising two young women. What justice does this serve?”

Alejandra ultimately decided to “self-deport” to Mexico rather than turn herself in to be detained and then deported.

After 20 years in the United States, she no longer has family or friends in the country, so she chose Merida, a city in the Yucatan where a small community of deported military spouses might help her.

Emotionally spent, she wiped her tears behind sunglasses and stroked Pamela’s hair while gripping Estela, who stood by her side.

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Temo said he preferred not to talk before they were all escorted through security for their final goodbyes.

A reporter asked what she would say to the president. Alejandra said she would ask Trump how he could let this happen, since he “always says he loves the military and he’s doing everything for the military.”

“My husband fought for this country three times. The administration, yourself, you think you are punishing me. You’re not just punishing me,” she said, referring to her family. “I hope this make him happy. Perhaps we will forgive him.”