Deployed And Deported -- Immigration law hurts military families

The Chicago Reporter, News Report, Beth Wang Posted: Jan 11, 2009

Editor's Note: Yolanda Guevara in the Army Reserve worries that while she is away in Iraq or Afghanistan, her husband could be deported. This report was produced by The Justice and Journalism Fellowship Program for Ethnic Media, supported by the McCormick Foundation at the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism.

Yolanda Guevara knows she could be called up at any moment.

Guevara is a rear detachment commander for her Army Reserve unit, which has already been deployed to Kuwait. It’s a matter of time before she would have to leave her husband and three children in North Carolina to join her unit. Even now, she is sent away from home for anywhere from three days to two weeks to various places in the country—a job she says would be difficult to manage without the support of her husband.

“He works part time but whenever I have to go out … he’s there for me,” Yolanda says. “I don’t think I could be in the military without him.”

For many military families, the thought of being deployed would be enough to deal with, but Guevara also faces the possibility that her husband, Juan, will be deported back to El Salvador in a few months.

Juan crossed the border into Arizona without inspection in 2000. A year later, severe earthquakes hit El Salvador, and he was able to apply for “Temporary Protected Status” that gives him permission to live and work in the U.S. Every year, the two fill out forms to renew this status.

In 2007, after saving up enough money, they decided to apply for Juan’s permanent residency. But at the immigration appointment late last year, they were told he is ineligible for citizenship because he crossed illegally.

When Guevara explained her situation to the immigration officer, the response was less than helpful. “I told him, ‘My unit is going to be deployed, so I’m afraid— what if I’m gone and I’m stationed over in Iraq or Kuwait, and my husband’s [status] expires?’” she says. “What’s going to happen to my kids?”

She says the officer responded, “You worry about that when that happens.” Advocates say many military families are in the same boat. Though official figures aren’t collected, Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney who helped establish the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Military Assistance Program, says she gets at least one phone call a day from military personnel with immigration troubles.

Stock says it is a problem that not only interferes with the lives of soldiers and their families, but ultimately also hampers military readiness. “You would not believe the amount of resources that are being spent right now trying to deal with these problems,” says Stock, whose program provides military families with pro bono assistance. “We just have soldiers who are in tears—soldiers and sailors who just can’t deal with their family situation being unsettled.”

Most problems stem from the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which established a strict set of changes in immigration laws, including a rule that does not provide waivers for any offenses—such as crossing the border illegally—for immigrants who are seeking permanent residence or other legal status.

Stock says the ’96 law is responsible for a large chunk of undocumented immigrants that the country has today. In testifying before Congress earlier this year, she referred to the “parole” policy for undocumented Cubans and said putting a similar policy in place for the military families could provide a solution.

In May, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced a bill, H.R. 6020, that would provide such relief—by allowing for discretion that currently lacks in immigration law in handling noncitizen military families members.

But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank that advocates for controlled immigration, says making exceptions for the noncitizen spouses of soldiers is like giving a criminal a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” With 12 million undocumented immigrants, the country can’t afford to look at each case and keep making exceptions.

“If you’re saying the law needs to have wiggle room, I agree,” he says. “But our immigration law is nothing but wiggle room. The immigration lawyers have a motto: ‘It ain’t over ’til the alien wins.’”

Stock says that people who tend to make that argument never actually intend to let immigrants through. “The irony of the whole immigration debate is that [they] don’t want anything to change,” she says.

Deborah Notkin, an immigration lawyer in New York and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s board of governors, says the country will always have a high number of immigrants, but that shouldn’t be a reason why these families aren’t helped.

“We don’t want to be a country that turns its back on human compassion,” she says. “It’s not okay to take a woman who’s been here for 20 years and has four children and say we have to turn our back on them because we have too many here already.”

Rather than sit back and wait to see what would happen, Guevara decided to look for help. She discussed the issue with her commander who then talked to her battalion commander. They decided to put her in charge of her unit from a station in the U.S. After two months of pushing for help, a battalion lawyer referred her to Stock’s program. She’s now working with a lawyer to find a way to reverse the deportation process.

Unless the case succeeds, the family’s only hope is for the protected status for El Salvadorians to be extended before it expires in March. If it’s extended, Juan would be able to reapply for his stay. If it’s not, he faces his deportation proceeding. The deportation, Guevara says, would mean she’d have to quit the military and consider moving with her family to either El Salvador or Mexico. “I don’t really want to leave the military because I’ve only been with it for seven years,” she says. “I want to stay and get a career in it, but my family comes first. So it’s kind of hard for me, but I will have to leave. There’s no other way.”


Related Articles:

Father of Dead Soldier Prays for 'Papers'

Deporting Parents of Dead Soldiers is 'Excessive' and 'Harsh' Punishment


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User Comments


Rios on Feb 02, 2009 at 10:11:23 said:

can everybody just stop Bitching?
im sick and tired of EVERYBODY bitching about "oh illegal this" "illegal that", Just Shut the Fuck up. Please! you aint doing anything about it.
it is what it is, just deal with it.
Rios
USMC


Ana pardo on Jan 30, 2009 at 10:15:48 said:

The only true americans are the Seminoles and the Micousukee, we all should remember this before we talk about immigrants, and besides everybody deserves a second chance.
if this holds true than we all have to be deported. Start looking at your roots.


Edie on Jan 16, 2009 at 06:55:55 said:

Shoshi on Jan 13, 2009 at 10:00:42 said:
Because what the world needs is less compassion and even more ways to dehumanize other people in order to justify inequality and injustice.

I would have much more sympathy for those of you feeling indignant about illegal aliens breaking the law if there actually were feasible ways to immigrate to this country. For example, the average person from El Salvador would stand in line for years going through the process only to be denied entry. Mothers in the US legally literally cannot get their underage children here.

The reason the mother who has legal status has legal status is having a difficult time getting her underage children here is because. 1. She is probably working a low wage job. 2. Her children will become additional financial burden for this country in terms of education, medical care, etc. 3. She probably is not making enough money to take care of herself, let alone her children. Haven’t you noticed yet, but things in the U.S. are expensive. 4. Grow up. No one is making this woman stay in the U.S. She should commit to working for a few years and go home. What she wants is for her whole family to be here in the U.S. with her. Frankly having her in the U.S. working at a low wage job is not worth supporting her whole family. That’s the cold hard facts. You bring enough of these poor and illiterate people into the U.S. and they will destroy the very American Dream they pursue. And though money is not everything, everything costs here in the U.S. Nothing is Free. I have to work for every penny I get. I don’t want to have to subsidize the wages of our cheap labor as they are called. Money does not grow on trees. The moment it does, please let everyone know.


Edie on Jan 16, 2009 at 06:55:54 said:

Shoshi on Jan 13, 2009 at 10:00:42 said:
Because what the world needs is less compassion and even more ways to dehumanize other people in order to justify inequality and injustice.

I would have much more sympathy for those of you feeling indignant about illegal aliens breaking the law if there actually were feasible ways to immigrate to this country. For example, the average person from El Salvador would stand in line for years going through the process only to be denied entry. Mothers in the US legally literally cannot get their underage children here.

The reason the mother who has legal status has legal status is having a difficult time getting her underage children here is because. 1. She is probably working a low wage job. 2. Her children will become additional financial burden for this country in terms of education, medical care, etc. 3. She probably is not making enough money to take care of herself, let alone her children. Haven’t you noticed yet, but things in the U.S. are expensive. 4. Grow up. No one is making this woman stay in the U.S. She should commit to working for a few years and go home. What she wants is for her whole family to be here in the U.S. with her. Frankly having her in the U.S. working at a low wage job is not worth supporting her whole family. That’s the cold hard facts. You bring enough of these poor and illiterate people into the U.S. and they will destroy the very American Dream they pursue. And though money is not everything, everything costs here in the U.S. Nothing is Free. I have to work for every penny I get. I don’t want to have to subsidize the wages of our cheap labor as they are called. Money does not grow on trees. The moment it does, please let everyone know.


Edie on Jan 16, 2009 at 06:52:57 said:

Shoshi on Jan 13, 2009 at 10:00:42 said:
Because what the world needs is less compassion and even more ways to dehumanize other people in order to justify inequality and injustice.

I would have much more sympathy for those of you feeling indignant about illegal aliens breaking the law if there actually were feasible ways to immigrate to this country. For example, the average person from El Salvador would stand in line for years going through the process only to be denied entry. Mothers in the US legally literally cannot get their underage children here.

The reason the mother who has legal status has legal status is having a difficult time getting her underage children here is because. 1. She is probably working a low wage job. 2. Her children will become additional financial burden for this country in terms of education, medical care, etc. 3. She probably is not making enough money to take care of herself, let alone her children. Haven’t you noticed yet, but things in the U.S. are expensive. 4. Grow up. No one is making this woman stay in the U.S. She should commit to working for a few years and go home. What she wants is for her whole family to be here in the U.S. with her. Frankly having her in the U.S. working at a low wage job is not worth supporting her whole family. That’s the cold hard facts. You bring enough of these poor and illiterate people into the U.S. and they will destroy the very American Dream they pursue. And though money is not everything, everything costs here in the U.S. Nothing is Free. I have to work for every penny I get. I don’t want to have to subsidize the wages of our cheap labor as they are called. Money does not grow on trees. The moment it does, please let everyone know.


Shoshi on Jan 13, 2009 at 10:00:42 said:

Because what the world needs is less compassion and even more ways to dehumanize other people in order to justify inequality and injustice.

I would have much more sympathy for those of you feeling indignant about illegal aliens breaking the law if there actually were feasible ways to immigrate to this country. For example, the average person from El Salvador would stand in line for years going through the process only to be denied entry. Mothers in the US legally literally cannot get their underage children here.


Dana Garcia on Jan 12, 2009 at 15:44:48 said:

I'm sick of hearing how these lawbreakers need "compassion." Immigration is in a state of anarchy because of way too much do-gooder emotionalism. Illegal aliens should all be sent home yesterday -- no excuses.


HernandezUSA on Jan 12, 2009 at 08:10:37 said:

Our is Economy down and Millions of American Citizens are out of work an Unemployment is at its highest level and our highest leaders considering amnesty?

We need the SAVE ACT and E-verify used for every business and NOT Amnesty for criminals.

E-verify does not discriminate against RACE, Religion, SEX or physically capability only your Citizenship and your LEGAL right to be and work in United States.

If we can stop Predatory business owners from hiring then the Illegal Aliens will not Stay and return to their native Countries.

This ISSUE is not about RACE, but Governments Federal/State/LOCAL not doing their jobs, because big and small business owners want cheap workers and no labor laws to bother with......Its called GREED!

The only RACISTS are the single RACE agenda GROUPS like La RAZA, Mecha, Aztlan and ETC....Whose main goal is take our Western States back to Mexico.

Both Liberals and Conservatives need to take some pride in our Country and protect it from all invading nations citizens and corporate greed.

Please support, NO IMMIGRANT BASHING or HATE Crimes.

HATE only feeds the single RACE agenda groups for Open Borders and the Media.

numbersusa
dontspeakforme.org


Pancho Pantera on Jan 11, 2009 at 20:03:33 said:

Bob, what is hard to understand is why people like you take an extremist and fanatic stand.

Is not just about blaming someone or something. It's about dealing with things the way they are now without shooting your own foot.


Pancho Pantera on Jan 11, 2009 at 20:00:45 said:

Bernie, this is not only your country, and yes, every rule has it\'s own exceptions. The exception makes the rule.
How about you undoing history and having those who took over what now is the US going out and trying to come back and get the land legitimately this time? Your parents may have had opportunities that not everyone had.


Pancho Pantera on Jan 11, 2009 at 19:57:47 said:

Laws are broken for several reasons other than being dishonest or a criminal: either they don't make sense, are outdated, in self defense, etc.

Not every breach to the law should be treated the same whether is immigration or killing another human being. If there are degrees to murder, there should be degrees to illegal status.


Pancho Pantera on Jan 11, 2009 at 19:55:21 said:

\"making exceptions for the noncitizen spouses of soldiers is like giving a criminal a “get-out-of-jail-free card.\"

I disagree. It\'s not the same a noncitizen that works and contributes to society than a criminal.
Every law and rule has to consider case by case, especially when is newly instated.


howrad on Jan 11, 2009 at 19:09:01 said:

Yolanda has some responsibility in this mess. I can see why she worries but why should we have to change our laws to acomadate someone who broke our laws. As far as seperating families, we do it all the time, every time a parent is sent to prison for committing a crime.


Pennsylvania Bernie on Jan 11, 2009 at 17:02:17 said:

When are illegal aliens going to realize that they have no right being in my country? There are consequences for their actions and they need to be deported to their own country, no exceptions. How about trying to enter legally. It may take longer but its worth it. Ask my parents. They did it the legal way and they were proud to become American citizens.


Delaware Bob on Jan 10, 2009 at 14:30:35 said:

This story just confirmed my beliefs. Illegal immigration has caused more problems than anyone could have ever imagined. When is it going to end?

NO ILLEGAL ALIEN HAS A RIGHT TO BE IN THIS COUNTRY FOR ANY REASON! What is so hard to understand about that?

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