Below are just a few highlighted stories of US Citizens living separated or exiled from their own country. To see stories at a state level, click on each individual state sub-menu.
The Parada Family - Living Separated
My name is Andrea Parada and I am a US Citizen. March 6th, 2017 was the day that forever scarred my family when we made that trip to Ciudad Juarez. We felt we had done everything morally right, but the law said otherwise and punished us. My husband was left at the consulate and barred from returning with me and his son to the US when we tried to finalize our immigration process.
It’s been over a year since this drastic event and it has truly taken a toll on me and my son. Our 3 year old son, Alejandro, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. Ever since his father’s absence he has regressed to harmful behavior such as purposely throwing himself on the floor and banging his head on any type of surface. He has lashed out by hitting and biting teachers, therapists, including myself. It has gotten to the point where it was so much that I had to recruit the help of a behavioral therapist. Their conclusion was indeed that his behavioral regression stemmed from his father’s absence and now seeks the constant attention of only parent – Me. Having my son is the only motivation I have. Anxiety, depression, stress, hopeless, tired, insomnia, and heartbreak hide behind this smile.
All of our accomplishments have been achieved through my husband’s own hard work without asking for anything in return. My son and I, as US Citizens, should not have to take no for an answer because my husband has proven more than one way to be an asset and not a burden to our country. I am juggling a full time job, while being a full time mother, and keeping my husband’s business open because his achievement costs him sleepless nights, struggles, and tears and I will not see it fail. Every family has a right to be together. We cannot be told who not to love because of their status. We are asking for our representatives to be a champion and introduce legislation that will help our family and the many families in our situation.
Contact The Parada Families Representatives
The Marroquin Family - Living Exiled (Guatemala)
My name is Kimberly Griffith and I’ve been living exiled in Guatemala for over 5 years. I came to Guatemala in November 2013 to remain together with my spouse. This is my story.
My husband came to the US to escape poverty and the gangs that were ever-present in his home city. He worked very hard, sometimes two and three jobs, in order to send money back to his mother and daughter. He was everybody’s friend and could often be found helping anyone who needed his help. Being from a Central American country, his love was soccer and he often played on a community rec team with his friends. He also sponsored children whose parents could not afford the fees associated with being on a team, often paying the registration fees and purchasing the uniforms and shoes for them. As a teacher, his attitude and selflessness appealed to me because it paralleled what I often do in my classroom. We lived a comfortable life until it all came crashing down in March, 2013.
He was stopped by a police officer just before Easter as he went to work. He didn’t have a license (they weren’t available in North Carolina back then), so the officer arrested him and took him to the local jail. He was sent to Georgia, where he was kept for almost 3 months before finally being deported in June.
I moved to be with my husband in November, 2013. During the 5 months he was here without me, I visited twice; those visits made me miss him so much I decided to break my teaching contract and move. I have been here ever since. But it hasn’t been easy. The first four months I was here we only had a cooktop stove, no modern appliances. I bloodied my knuckles every week as I washed our clothes in the pila, a concrete sink outside that was used to wash everything; I suffered through bone-chilling cold showers from that pila also. As a teacher, I was able to secure a job in Guatemala City, but the pay was abysmal and the 3+ hours on a public “chicken bus” every day rivaled that of any big city in the US. I have had an autoimmune thyroid disease since I was 25, but I can’t get the medicine I need because it’s not sold here. I’ve been diagnosed with additional autoimmune diseases while here, plus asthma from an ever-erupting nearby volcano (Volcan Fuego, whose eruption in June 2018 killed over a thousand people and displaced many more). My chronic PTSD from years of childhood abuse remains untreated, as true mental health therapy doesn’t affordably exist here (when it can be found). My husband’s depression from his detention and deportation is just now finally abating after many months of discussion with leaders of the church. Yet my faith in God reminds me every day that I made the right decision to honor my vows before God and keep my marriage intact.
Yes, my husband broke a law by crossing the border without permission and also by necessity, driving without a license, both misdemeanors. Yet, as a US citizen, had I committed a misdemeanor, I would not be separated from my family for years, or permanently, as immigrants are; I’d be given the chance to make things right by paying a fine or spending a few months in jail. My husband’s marriage to me, a US citizen, should count for something, but because of the harsh, punitive immigration laws put into place through the IIRIRA bill of 1996, it does not. We often hear sympathetic talk about the DREAMers who, “through no fault of their own,” are caught up in this immigration mess. But where’s the talk about the US citizens like me and the upwards of 500,000 more who, through no fault of our own, are being punished every day and must choose between keeping our families and marriages intact or staying in our own country? For many, the extreme irony of “getting in line” is the very fact that doing so triggers our own punishment or exile because of the bars implemented in IIRIRA. It is the very definition of a no win situation for me and others like me, as U.S. Citizens who must risk it all and choose between the person that we love and the country that we love. Please reform these inhumane immigration laws so that other citizens like me, have some reasonable opportunity to have our cases resolved so that we can return to our own country with our families intact.