The wife of a U.S. combat veteran arrived Friday in Mérida after exhausting all options to stop her deportation in Florida.
After 20 years in the United States, Alejandra Juarez chose Mérida, where other deported military spouses and a small community of expats are already befriending her.
Alejandra said that after a Google search she found that Mérida is the safest city in Mexico, so her husband recommended that she go live there. What Google didn’t tell her was how warm a reception she would immediately receive in the Yucatecan capital.
Upon arrival at the Mérida airport, she was received by reporters, members of the community and by personnel from the National Institute of Migration, who offered her assistance.
A Facebook page will be set up to support Alejandra, reports an expat who is helping her acclimate to her new surroundings. (A link will be added here when the page is established.)
When her daughter comes, “I have to get a bilingual school, so that adapting to our new life is not so traumatic, but we know that in Mérida many people speak English and many Americans live here, who will help us,” Alejandra said.
She expressed anger at the political situation that has divided her family.
“I am not a criminal, what happens is that Trump hates all Mexicans, he did not care that my husband has defended the United States in the Iraq war … he is not only punishing the undocumented, but also the military. I feel humiliated,” Alejandra said after landing in Mérida.
Alejandra and Cuauhtémoc “Temo” Juarez, a naturalized citizen who runs a roofing business, quietly raised Pamela, 16, and Estela, 9, in central Florida until a 2013 traffic stop exposed her legal status.
Afterward, she regularly checked in with U.S. Immigration and Customs officials, which until now typically only pursued undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Being married to a naturalized citizen with military service was a mark in her favor.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., who couldn’t get the votes in Congress for legislation to allow Juarez to remain, called her situation disgraceful.
“It’s an absolute disgrace by the Trump administration to be deporting a patriotic spouse,” Soto said. “Her husband, Temo, served in the Marines … while she was at home on the home-front, raising two young women. What justice does this serve?”
Temo, 41, served in the Marines from 1995 to 1999 and then reactivated with the Florida National Guard to deploy to Iraq. Ironically, he leans conservative and is a supporter of President Donald Trump, who created the “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.
“People who do business with me — they laughed (saying), ‘You are a super conservative,’ ” he said. “I told them, ‘I am eating my words.’ ”
Anyone found without legal status can face deportation, not just those who’ve committed crimes, said Paul Donnelly of American Families United. He estimates that 11,800 active U.S. service members have a spouse facing deportation; include the spouses of veterans and that number is even higher.
“These are not people knocking off banks and 7-Elevens,” he said. “These are military families trying to get by, and it’s a lousy thing to do.”
Estela will join her mother in Mexico later on while Temo cares for Pamela and pays the bills.
Alejandra, now 39, says she was raised by a dysfunctional family in a a crime-ridden section of Mexico City. At 18, she was smuggled across the border with the help of a coyote.
She petitioned to become a citizen in 2001 but was rejected because she was accused of making a false statement at the border when she sought asylum in 1998, attorney Richard Maney said.
That incident was a misunderstanding. She had been asked about her citizenship and told authorities she had been a student in Memphis for a short time, so border officials apparently thought she was falsely claiming to be an American citizen, said Maney.
“This is not going to be the last case like this,” Maney said. “This is potentially the first of many. There are many military spouses in the same situation.”
“My husband fought for this country three times. The administration, yourself, you think you are punishing me. You’re not just punishing me,” Alejandra said, referring to her family. “I hope this make him happy. And I really pray that God will forgive him.”
Sources: ACOM, Associated Press, Stars & Stripes, Heraldo de Mexico