Darren Soto refiles bill granting immigration relief to deported Central Florida military spouse

click to enlarge Alejandra Juárez and her two daughters. - Photo courtesy of FWD.us
Photo courtesy of FWD.us
Alejandra Juárez and her two daughters.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has refiled a bill granting immigration relief to Alejandra Juárez, the wife of a U.S. Marine combat veteran who was forced to deport to Mexico last year under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policies.

Last August, Alejandra Juárez, 39, was separated from her husband, former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc "Temo" Juárez, 41, and 16-year-old daughter, Pamela. They stayed behind in Davenport while Alejandra Juárez took her 9-year-old daughter, Estela, to live with her in Mexico.

The bill filed by Soto, D-Orlando, is part of a last-ditch effort to allow Alejandra Juárez to obtain an immigrant visa or apply to be a lawful permanent resident.

Alejandra Juárez has no criminal record, but she was nonetheless flagged to immigration authorities for being undocumented after a routine traffic stop in 2013. She was not considered a priority for deportation until the Trump administration started enforcing criminal prosecution for all improper entries under "zero-tolerance" policies.

Alejandra Juárez's removal order stemmed from her 1998 unauthorized entry into the United States. At 19, she fled a violent situation in Mexico City and presented herself at the U.S.-Mexico border. During an interrogation with border officers, she told them she had lived in the U.S. before and attended high school, but later clarified she was a Mexican citizen. Officials, though, said she was falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen.

Despite Alejandra Juárez speaking only Spanish, officials made her sign documents in English so that she could be released immediately and avoid six months at a detention center. Her attorneys argue the paperwork for her expedited removal also banned her from entering the country for five years and barred her for life if she violated that order. Without knowing, she signed away any  future rights to permanent residency or naturalized citizenship and crossed the border again a few days later.

She met Temo Juárez, a naturalized U.S. citizen, in 2000. They had two daughters and she supported him during his deployment in Iraq.

After the 2013 traffic stop, Alejandra Juárez checked in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials twice a year until the Trump administration targeted her for deportation. Her husband, a conservative who voted for Trump, previously said he didn't think his choice for president would affect his wife's status.

Despite efforts from Soto, immigration advocates and her attorneys,  Alejandra Juárez was ordered to be deported last August after 22 years of living in the U.S.

"My husband served this country," Alejandra Juárez said at the Orlando International Airport before leaving to Mexico. "Mr. President, you deporting me is not going to hurt just me. You’re making a veteran suffer. You always say you love veterans. If you really love veterans, why didn’t you pardon me? He’s not only punishing me – he’s punishing my husband who served this country."

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Darren Soto comforts Alejandra Juárez - Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto comforts Alejandra Juárez
The independent military newspaper Stars and Stripes reports Alejandra Juárez and her 9-year-old daughter are adjusting to life in Mexico. She has also started a blog called, "Finding Hope after Deportation."

It has been very hard for me to go on," Alejandra Juárez wrote Jan. 9. "I can’t seem to get out of the dark cloud that I feel I have over my head. It has been 5 months since I was deported from the US and I know that it is expected from me by now to feel better and move on right? … How can I feel better when so much has been taking away from me?"

Soto has also filed legislation to protect active military and veteran spouses who are at-risk of deportation from the U.S. The "Protect Patriot Spouses Act" makes certain military spouses eligible for adjustment of immigration status. Soto's office says that at least 350,000 American citizens are married to foreign-born spouses with significant problems with US immigration law. As many as 11,800 active U.S. military service members are dealing with family members facing deportation, according to American Families United.

"While military spouses are not active on the battlefield, they serve alongside our military personnel by ensuring they have a home and family to rejoin after service deployments," Soto's office says.

Soto is hosting a press conference Wednesday in Washington D.C. with Alejandra Juárez's daughter Pamela, immigration advocacy groups and veterans organizations to announce the re-introduction of the legislation.

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