House lawmakers launch new effort to protect military spouses from deportation
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 23, 2019
WASHINGTON — A measure was reintroduced in the House on Wednesday to provide relief to military spouses facing deportation, with particular attention paid to one spouse – Alejandra Juarez, the wife of an Iraq War veteran who was deported to Mexico last year.
Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., introduced the Protect Patriot Spouses Act to give military spouses priority when applying for a Green Card, which would allow them to live permanently in the United States. Soto said the bill would also provide more leniency to military spouses who violated certain laws – acts that would typically lead to deportation.
The bill stalled in the House last year. With the lower chamber now controlled by Democrats, Soto is more hopeful about its chances. He described the bill as more “generous” than the measure that he introduced last year.
“It’s more generous than last year’s bill because it’s a new Congress, and because we believe strongly in second chances,” Soto said during a news conference outside the Capitol. He was joined by Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.
At the same time Wednesday, Soto reintroduced another bill on behalf of Juarez.
Last year, Juarez, who had lived in the United States for 22 years, took on a very public and dramatic fight against President Donald Trump to remain in the country under increasingly stringent immigration policies.
After pursuing every legal and political avenue to petition against her deportation, Juarez left for Mexico in August. She now lives there with her younger daughter, Estela.
Her older daughter, Pamela Juarez, remained in Florida with her father, Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez.
Pamela Juarez, a 16-year-old junior in high school, was present at the news conference Wednesday. Her father, who has been described as a Trump supporter, wasn’t there.
“Since the day I watched my mom board that flight to Mexico, I felt a deep hole in my heart. When my sister followed her a couple of weeks later, that hole got bigger,” Pamela Juarez said. “I haven’t slept well in months…I can’t remember the last time when I wasn’t anxious or nervous, because every day I’m just worrying about what’s going to happen to my mom, or how my sister’s doing.”
She went on to say her family was “forced apart” by the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for illegal immigrants. Advocates contend the policy has meant that there is no longer an order of priority in enforcing immigration law.
Soto said he, along with other congressmen, had filed bills, sent letters and had personal conversations – done everything in their power to sway the authorities in Juarez’ case. The bill that he introduced Wednesday would afford Juarez legal permanent residence status.
The legislation will likely have a better chance of being considered under the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Soto said.
“With a new judiciary chairman… I believe we’re going to have some private bills heard in this term, so it gives her in her individual case an opportunity as well,” he said.
Stars and Stripes staff writer Claudia Grisales contributed to this story.