A family is splitting in two in Florida, where the wife of a former Marine and Iraq War combat veteran is being deported after exhausting all her appeals.
Tears flowed as Alejandra Juarez checked in for her flight to Mexico Friday at Orlando International Airport.
Her husband Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez, a naturalized citizen, had written a letter to President Donald Trump, who he had voted for, requesting help, Stars and Stripes reported. It was delivered through his congressman, Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.
Alejandra Juarez said that if she could talk with Trump, she'd ask how he could let this happen, since her husband served the United States and Trump "always says he loves the military and he's doing everything for the military."
There is an immigration policy for military members and their families called "parole in place," NBC News reported. The Citizen and Immigration Services website says they provide “discretionary options such as parole in place or deferred action on a case-by-case basis.”
The 39-year-old woman lived in the U.S. for 20 years without trouble until a traffic stop in Davenport, Florida, exposed her legal status.
Afterward, she regularly checked in with U.S. Immigration and Customs officials, which typically went after higher-priority targets like people with criminal records. Temo didn't figure his vote for Trump would affect them personally. That was before the enforcement of Trump's "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal immigrants.
Alejandra Juarez raised two American citizen daughters, ages 16 and 8, with her husband, a naturalized citizen who runs a roofing business.
The older daughter, Pamela, cursed at the immigration agency before her mother checked in for her flight, saying, "My mom is a good person. She's not a criminal."
For now, Alejandra Juarez was traveling by herself. After she is settled, younger daughter Estela will join her. Temo Juarez will care for Pamela in Florida and pay the bills.
"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."
Alejandra Juarez 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 attorney, Richard Maney. Asked about her citizenship, she had told authorities she had been a student in Memphis, Tennessee for a short time, and border officials apparently thought she was falsely claiming to be an American citizen, the attorney said.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., who couldn't 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 Juarez 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 own tears behind sunglasses and stroked Pamela's hair while gripping Estela, who stood by her side. Temo Juarez said he preferred not to talk before they were all escorted through security for their final goodbyes.