Soto Renews Efforts for Deported Davenport Woman
Katie Aragón of the immigrant advocacy group Fwd.US: “Deporting Alejandra [Juarez] was simply wrong — wrong for our country, wrong for her community. Sadly, her story is not unique.”
LAKELAND — A Davenport teenager stood before the United States Capitol on Wednesday and described the anguish she has endured since her mother was forced to leave the country.
“Since the day I watched my mom board that flight to Mexico, I’ve felt a deep hole in my heart. And when my sister had to follow her a couple weeks later, that hole got bigger and bigger,” said Pamela Juarez, 17. “Every day I just worry about what’s going to happen to my mom, how’s my sister doing, because I miss them a lot.”
Alejandra Juarez was deported Aug. 3 despite the efforts of U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, to protect her. Juarez is married to a retired Marine and Iraq War veteran, Cuauthemos “Temo” Juarez of Davenport.
Alejandra Juarez flew to her native Mexico and was joined two weeks later by her younger daughter Estela, 9, who was born in the United States, as was Pamela. The older daughter continues to live with her father, an American citizen.
Juarez came to the attention of federal authorities after a traffic stop in 2013. She didn’t face the threat of deportation until President Donald Trump adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy for undocumented residents.
During a news conference Wednesday, Soto and other lawmakers pledged to push for a way to allow Juarez’s return to the United States. Soto has filed a private bill to provide permanent legal status for Juarez, who entered the country illegally in 1998.
That measure revives a bill he introduced last year. Soto has also filed a new version of another bill, the Protect Patriot Spouses Act, which would shield undocumented spouses of military members from deportation.
Before the news conference, Soto told The Ledger he thinks the prospect of passage for both bills has improved.
“The difference this time is obviously we have a new Democratic majority in the House, and there is a much better chance that the Judiciary Committee will hear private bills, which hasn’t happened in a long time,” Soto said by phone.
Soto was joined at the news conference by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, a Marine veteran; and Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Soto said 11,800 military families are dealing with questions involving legal status for an immigrant member.
“When we talk about deportations, we should be focusing on people that are dangerous, that are a danger to the community,” Gallego said during the news conference, which was live-streamed on Soto’s Facebook page. “We should not be focusing on military spouses.”
Takano expressed support for Soto’s two bills.
“Our veterans ... willingly put themselves in harm’s way believing they and their families would be cared for and protected, but for thousands of service members who have a family member facing deportation or young Americans like Pamela, who watched as their parents were deported, the reality has been an emotional and heartbreaking shock,” Takano said. “Working to ensure veterans and their families can remain together should be a top priority.”
Takano said he expects the U.S. Government Accountability Office to issue a report on deported veterans that he requested in the previous session of Congress.
Katie Aragón of the immigrant advocacy group Fwd.US recalled joining the Juarez family as Alejandra flew from Orlando International Airport to Mexico in August.
“Watching Pamela and Estela walk back through security without their mom was absolutely devastating,” Aragón said. “That image is seared in my memory. It should lay on the conscience of this administration. Deporting Alejandra was simply wrong — wrong for our country, wrong for her community. Sadly, her story is not unique.”
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