No miracles for family broken apart by deportation

Broken and racially skewed immigration system indicted in PBS documentary

Elizabeth Perez and her husband, Marcos, a Mexican national who was in the U.S. illegally, are pictured with their children, Ellie, front left, Georgia, Pele and Rocky. Elizabeth Perez is featured in the documentary "Marcos Doesn't Live Here Anymore," to be seen on PBS stations in the U.S. 9-11 p.m. EDT April 15. Photo: PBS
Elizabeth Perez and her husband, Marcos, a Mexican national who was in the U.S. illegally, are pictured with their children, Ellie, front left, Georgia, Pele and Rocky. Elizabeth Perez is featured in the documentary “Marcos Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” on PBS. Photo: PBS

Only prayer is what an Ohio woman says keeps her going after being separated from her husband, a Mexican national.

“My faith is the only thing that kept me moving, because I do believe that God has a plan for all of us, and we don’t always know what it is, or why,” said Elizabeth Perez, 40, who spent five years in the Marines and another five in the Ohio Army National Guard.

Elizabeth is featured in the documentary “Marcos Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” which debuts on PBS television in the United States this Monday.

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Marcos, her husband, was undocumented when stopped by Cleveland police after blowing a yellow light in 2010. He had also been arrested for two crimes in California, well before he and Elizabeth met. Two weeks later, Marcos was deported. Meanwhile, Elizabeth was pregnant with their second child.

Marcos was given a “permanent bar,” meaning he could not apply for reentry for 10 years — a year from now.

Perez has worked with an advocacy group, HOLA Ohio and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to get him back. Nothing has worked.

In one documentary scene, Perez — a devout Catholic — goes to a Marian courtyard at St. Anne Church in Cleveland and implores, “Oh, Mary, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” In another scene, she and dozens of other HOLA Ohio members are shown making a 20-mile trek from Mentor, Ohio, to St. Casimir Church in Cleveland.

That church’s story has a particular resonance for Perez.

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“We believe miracles happen there” at St. Casimir, Perez told Catholic News Service. “When Bishop (Richard G.) Lennon came to Cleveland and closed a lot of churches, that was one of the ones that was closed. A lot of people were upset about it and held their Mass every day outside for three years — in the rain and the cold and the snow.

“The church was actually reopened because they fought for it. It has a big significance with miracles. It’s a Polish church. There’s a big portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa. It’s the same one that was outside the day it was reopened. It was significant that we did the march there. It was like a pilgrimage to pray for a miracle from the Polish Madonna.”

Through her nine-year effort, Perez has come to some conclusions about the U.S. immigration system.

The system doesn’t work for anyone “if it doesn’t work for us — and not only forget about, like, being a veteran, an American and those things — but all the work that we’ve done and all the people who have sacrificed their time and their energy to get him back,” she said.

“And I’m more aware that it’s a — in my opinion — a racial problem. I think it’s very racially driven,” Elizabeth added.

Marcos lives in Mexico City, where he referees soccer matches, earning the equivalent of US$10 per game. Perez said the low pay levels in Mexico are “just insane.”

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Perez visited him once in Mexico and got pregnant with their third child. After considerable discussion, the whole family later moved to Yucatan, where they had a fourth child. Stress and other issues, though, became too much to bear, so they moved back to their old homes and crossed their fingers for a better result come next year.

Nothing has been resolved since filming ended.

“The hamster wheel that you see in the film is still rolling right now,” Elizabeth said.

Source: PBS, Catholic News Service

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