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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Caesar Flores, center, with his father, Andres Flores, and mother Juana Flores, who was deported to Mexico in 2018 after spending 30 years in the U.S.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Caesar Flores, center, with his father, Andres Flores, and mother Juana Flores, who was deported to Mexico in 2018 after spending 30 years in the U.S. (Office of Rep. Salud Carbajal)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A California family matriarch who was deported to Mexico after spending more than three decades in the United States can return home to Goleta.

Juana Flores, whose son is a U.S. Air Force sergeant, was deported by Department of Homeland Security officials in 2019.

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal announced Wednesday that Flores, 57, will be reunited with her family after he wrote a letter to the federal agency — now under the leadership of Biden administration secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — asking to grant the Flores family’s request for humanitarian parole.

Humanitarian parole allows individuals who are otherwise inadmissible into the United States the ability to enter the country for a temporary period of time based on humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit.

Flores’ humanitarian parole period will last one year, beginning Friday when she returns to the United States, Carbajal said in a news release.

“After two long years apart, the Flores family will finally be reunited. Juana’s deportation under the Trump administration left a hole in our Central Coast community that I’m glad will now be filled,” Carbajal said in a prepared statement. “I thank the Biden administration for granting her humanitarian parole, which means she can return to her community and be present in the lives of her children and grandchildren.”

In the meantime, the Democratic congressman from Santa Barbara said he will continue to push for the Protect Patriot Parents Act, a bill he submitted in January to remove barriers that prevent parents of service members from applying for legal permanent residency.

“I will continue fighting to secure a permanent stay for Juana and reunite other families that were cruelly separated under the Trump administration,” said Carbajal, a former U.S. Marine. “The families of our service members deserve our respect and admiration, not deportation, which is why I will continue working to pass the Protect Patriot Parents Act and advance legislation that fixes our broken immigration system.”

Flores had lived in the United States for more than 30 years when she was deported in April 2019. She left the country to visit her ailing mother in Mexico and was blocked from re-entry.

Flores settled in Goleta, where she and her husband — Andres Flores, a U.S. permanent resident since 2009 and a U.S. citizen since 2015 — bought a home and raised a family of 10 children and 18 grandchildren.

Juana Flores has no criminal record, Before her deportation, she was the primary caregiver for an adult son with medical issues.

Flores attended a Zoom news conference from Mexico in January, telling reporters then that Mexico is not the same country she left 30 years ago. It’s far more dangerous, she said, and she’s been mostly alone.

“It was very difficult after spending so many years in California and seeing my children grow there,” she said through an interpreter in January. “It’s not the same as having your nuclear family with you. .... I don’t have friends. I only have people that I kind of know.”

U.S. Air Force. Sgt. Caesar Flores, her son, said in January that he hadn’t seen his mother in more than two years.

Flores, who became a father during that time, said he had little hope of seeing his mom before his deployment to war-torn Turkey in February.

“It’s been heartbreaking to not be able to have (his newborn daughter) spend quality time with her grandma,” Flores said. “Family is everything to us.”

On Wednesday, Juana Flores’ daughter Cristina Flores said her family is now looking forward to “our Sunday family meals that many families take for granted” as well as introducing her mother to her two new grandchildren and celebrating Juana Flores’ birthday on June 9.

Cristina Flores said her family is “deeply grateful for each and every single individual that helped us through these two difficult years.”

“We could not have done it without their dedication, support, and devoted generosity during such a hard time in our family,” Flores said. “Team Juana and Carbajal’s office worked tirelessly to bring my mom home.”

Carbajal, a three-term California congressman, won re-election in 2020. He represents California’s 24th congressional district, which encompasses San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties as well as part of northern Ventura County.


(c) 2021 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)

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