Longtime wife of combat veteran, mother of two deported to Mexico
By CLAUDIA GRISALES AND DIANNA CAHN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 3, 2018
WASHINGTON — Alejandra Juarez, wife of a combat veteran and mother of two U.S. citizen-children, was deported to Mexico on Friday after losing her battle to remain in the United States.
Juarez was surrounded by media, family and friends as she began a series of emotional goodbyes ahead of a morning flight from Orlando to Atlanta before boarding another plane to Mexico. Juarez made the connecting flight and was on her way to Mexico by Friday afternoon, according to the office of Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., who has been fighting on her behalf.
In an emotional interview with Orlando’s WTMO Telemundo ahead of her flight, Juarez said in her native Spanish that President Donald Trump was elected by the help of voters like her husband, who voted for him, and she’s heartbroken the president couldn’t help.
“I am very disillusioned by how (Trump) has treated my husband… I don’t know, maybe I deserve for it for the way I came in, but his wife is an immigrant. She had the luck to get papers easily, not me,” Juarez said early Friday from Orlando International Airport while surrounded by a sea of media cameras, microphones and journalists. “Mr. President by deporting me, you are not only making me suffer, you are making a veteran suffer.”
For months, Juarez and her family have worked to exhaust every legal and political avenue to petition against her deportation.
Juarez is not an American citizen. But she has lived in the United States for 20 years, is married to an American Iraq war veteran and raised their two American children. They had hoped one day she’d be able to get her citizenship.
“The girls are, of course, sad,” her husband, Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez, told Stars and Stripes after his wife boarded her final flight to Mexico.
It wasn’t until the Trump administration’s policy of zero tolerance for illegal immigrants that the Juarez family faced being torn apart. They’ve sought the help of congressmen and lawyers, knowing that if they failed, she would have to take their younger daughter Estela, 9, with her, while 16-year-old Pamela, whom they believe would not be safe in Mexico, would remain in Florida with her father Temo.
Lawmakers sent letters Thursday urging government officials to stay her removal, and there was confusion Thursday regarding her passport, which was apparently resolved by the time she boarded a plane Friday.
“This just adds insult to injury,” Soto said Thursday.
Soto was among lawmakers writing letters on Juarez’ behalf and filed legislation to thwart her deportation. On Friday, a spokeswoman for Soto described a difficult and emotional departure for Juarez and her family.
“We are talking about a woman who supported a military veteran abroad, raised a family, has been doing everything she can to stay in the country, and when (the Department of Homeland Security ) decides to kick her out, they don’t have the courtesy to give her documents back to do so in an orderly fashion,” Soto said ahead of her departure.
“We are talking about someone who this country owes a debt to,” Soto added. “It’s really both disturbing and ironic. Her husband fought for our country. He couldn’t have done it without her help raising their two daughters. … It just sends a terrible message to our military that the very government they are defending will deport their spouses on the homefront.”
Juarez, 39, came to the United States at 18 in 1998, smuggled across the border with the help of a coyote. She was caught the first time, and a border official had her sign a document in English before returning her to Mexico.
Juarez said she didn’t understand it at the time and only found out much later that the document was an expedited order of removal – which essentially stripped her of the right to ever return to the U.S. or become an American citizen.
Days later, she snuck back in and ultimately settled in Florida, where she met and ultimately married Temo Juarez, a former Marine who became a National Guardsman and deployed to Iraq shortly after the birth of their first daughter.
It was only in 2013, after a routine traffic stop, that Alejandra Juarez discovered she had signed a document promising never to return. The Juarez family consulted with lawyers but have never been able to get a hearing before an immigration judge or get a reprieve from that document.
Soto said he, along with other congressmen, has filed bills, held a press conference, sent letters, had personal conversations – done everything in their power to sway the authorities in Juarez’ case.
But even after sending another letter to the Secretary of Defense asking him to ask ICE to stop the deportation. The only response he’s received, he said, is confirmation that the letter is “under review.”
“Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it’s up to the Trump administration to make a decision,” he said. “And we are deeply disappointed with a president who, although he has really anti-immigrant rhetoric, at least pretends to stand by our veterans.”
Asked why he thought that immigration officials were demanding Juarez travel to pick up her passport before her deportation, Soto said he thought it was just apathy.
“They just don’t care,” he said.
Temo Juarez said he would fly down with the girls and extra luggage next week.
“My mom is a good person. She’s not a criminal,” her daughter Pamela told The Associated Press, cursing at the immigration agency before her mother checked in for her flight from Orlando International Airport.
BELOW: Letters from members of Congress to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis regarding Alejandra Juarez.
Alejandra Juarez, 38, left, says goodbye to her children, Pamela and Estela at the Orlando International Airport on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.
RED HUBER/ORLANDO SENTINEL/AP