U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents notified Alejandra Juarez Tuesday that she will be deported back to Mexico nine days from now, despite ongoing efforts to allow her to stay.
Juarez is married to former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez, an infantryman who served in the Marines from 1995 to 1999, first with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He took part in Operation Silver Wake, the evacuation of non-combatants from Albania in 1997. He served in Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and then deployed with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines throughout South America. After his contract was complete, he joined the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard in Orlando.
Juarez crossed illegally into the U.S. in 1998 and married Temo Juarez in 2000. The eldest of their two daughters was 12 months old when he deployed to Iraq.
The family’s separation comes in part as a result of stricter enforcement of immigration laws by the Trump administration. Under previous administrations, ICE deferred separation and allowed Alejandra Juarez to remain in the U.S.
“Alejandra deserves to stay in the country she has called home for over 20 years, the country her husband patriotically served as a Marine and Florida National Guardsman. The only country her two American-born daughters have known," said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.
Juarez has been preparing her daughters, Estela, 8, and Pamela,16, for this day. Alejandra is planning to bring Estela with her, but Pamela would remain in the U.S. with their dad.
Soto, whose district includes the Juarez' home, filed the “Patriot Spouses Act” and another bill on Alejandra Juarez' behalf that would allow her to stay. Both bills have gained bipartisan support, Soto said, but the bills have not yet been taken up by committee. That may be one of the reasons ICE is moving forward, her attorneys said.
“We are utterly disappointed in the decision by ICE to deny Alejandra’s stay of removal," Soto said in a statement. "We will continue the fight against the Trump administration’s heartless immigration policies tearing families apart.”
A legal team from the firm of Maney, Gordon, Zeller P.A., has taken on Alejandra Juarez' case pro-bono and is still trying to find a last minute solution for the family.
“The United States has a lot of policies in place to protect veterans and active duty and their families, and it is absolutely, incredibly, frustrating that these are not being made available to the wife of a decorated veteran who has served overseas multiple times,” said attorney Chelsea Nowel.
Nowel said Alejandra Juarez has had no adverse factors on her record besides her illegal entry 20 years ago.
“We are very hopeful we will be able to work with the Department of Homeland Security and with ICE to afford her an ability to stay," Nowel said.
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.