Once again, our government has demonstrated that common sense really isn’t so common.
I understand that Americans are not of one mind on the issue of immigration.
I understand that people who break the law ought to face punishment.
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register. Opinions are his own.
Visit the Iowa Freedom of Information Council website at: http://ifoic.org/
What I don’t understand are two cases involving foreign-born women — one a 39-year-old mother of two in Florida, the other a 4-year-old preschooler in Colorado.
Their dealings with the U.S. government, and the inability of our government to apply even a modicum of common sense, have me shaking my head at their predicament.
Set aside your political views as you read about Alejandra and Angela. Ask yourself this question: What is fair and just? What would Jesus do?
Alejandra Juarez, 39, lived in central Florida in a rural community of about 2,500 people. Her family includes her husband, Temo Juarez, 41, a retired Marine Corps sergeant, and their daughters Pamela, 16, and Estela, 9.
The Juarezes have been married 17 years. They own a flooring business they started when Temo left the military after three tours of duty in Iraq.
Temo came to the U.S. from his native Mexico as a child and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Alejandra grew up in a broken home in a crime-riddled neighborhood in Mexico City. She tried to sneak into the U.S. as a teenager but was stopped at the border. She spoke little English and a U.S. Border Patrol officer handed her a form to sign — either agreeing to be deported immediately or being held indefinitely in detention until her case was reviewed.
She agreed to leave. Within days, she successfully crossed into the U.S. Three years later, she had reached Florida, fallen in love with a Marine and married.
By the time Temo’s unit deployed to Iraq, the couple had a baby girl. Like other military spouses, Alejandra waited and worried about her husband during his absence, singlehandedly providing care for their little Pamela while Temo was in combat.
Except for entering the U.S. without permission, Alejandra has been a law-abiding resident of Florida. For that reason, she was a low priority for deportation.
But that changed after Trump became president. His zero-tolerance policy treats law-abiding undocumented immigrants the same as those convicted murder and other crimes.
“I came here illegally. I’m ashamed of it. I know I did something wrong,” Alejandra told reporters. “I love this country. This country has given me great things because we have worked hard.”
She added, referring to her husband: “They’re punishing him for something that I did a long time ago. His only mistake was marrying me.”
Traditionally, immigrant spouses of U.S. veterans and members of the military typically are allowed to remain in the U.S. under an immigration policy called “parole in place.” That policy recognizes the sacrifices made by those who serve in the armed forces.
Stars & Stripes, the newspaper covering the U.S. military, said an estimated 11,000 active military members have a spouse facing deportation. Those figures climb when veterans’ families like the Juarezes are added in.
“These are not people knocking off banks and 7-Elevens,” Paul Donnelly of American Families United, a nonprofit that advocates for immigration reform, told the newspaper. “These are military families trying to get by, and it’s a lousy thing to do.”
Earlier this month, Alejandra Juarez gave up her fight and voluntarily returned to Mexico. Her husband and daughters remained in Florida, in part because of the violence that initially led her to flee from Mexico 20 years ago.
If you think Alejandra Juarez brought on her predicament herself, consider Angela Becerra, a 4-year-old preschooler in Aurora, Colo. She faces deportation at the end of August, even though both parents are U.S. citizens.
Angela was born in Peru in 2014. Her biological mother was developmentally disabled and had been used by sex-traffickers. The baby was taken to an orphanage when she was 11 days old.
Amy and Marco Becerra, both U.S. citizens, were living in Peru at the time. A friend at the orphanage asked them if they would be foster parents for the newborn. They agreed.
Eventually, the Becerras decided to apply to adopt the girl. In April 2017, the adoption was approved by a Peruvian court. By then, the couple had decided it would be better to raise the child in the United States, where there were more opportunities and better schools.
Amy Becerra was hired for a state government job in Colorado in March 2017. Marco remained in Peru with Angela for what the couple thought would be a few weeks while the child’s immigration papers were processed by the U.S. government.
Those few weeks turned into 13 months. The visa that finally allowed Angela to come to the United States early this year expires on Aug. 31. On top of that headache, the U.S. government has turned down the child’s permanent residency request.
It is unlikely the appeal will be completed this month. That sets up an unacceptable choice for the Becerras: They can ignore the expiration of Angela’s visa and run the risk she will be deported, or they can quit their jobs and take Angela back to Peru while the appeal drags on.
“It’s inconceivable that a child of two citizen parents would have to live out her life as an undocumented alien in this country,” Amy Becerra told a Denver television station.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, our government has demonstrated that common sense is not all that common — as Angela Becerra and Alejandra Juarez illustrate.
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Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.