21 Days to Exile: Maria’s Story

21 Days to Exile: Maria’s Story
January 19, 2018 paperlesslion
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Mom has sick husband, baby – and looming deportation to ‘home’ she’s never known

By Chastity Pratt-DawseyBridge Magazine

Maria Garcia Juarez hasn’t been to Mexico since she was a baby.

She is now 23. But with wavy, long dark hair, big brown eyes and a petite, delicate stature, the Detroit wife and mother looks more like a teenager than the criminal the U.S. government considers her to be.

Because she stole two cars as a youth, Juarez is to be deported at the end of the month, leaving her leukemia-stricken husband and 18-month-old son behind to fly to one of the most violent areas of Mexico. Juarez has no real destination and no idea when she will be able to get back home to her family in Detroit.

If ever.

While she is gone, her husband is scheduled to receive a stem-cell transplant in hopes of saving his life. And her son, David, is to be evaluated to find out why he does not yet speak words.

Both her husband and son are American citizens. Juarez is not, even though this is the only land she knows.

“This has been my country forever. I don’t know Mexico. I don’t know the first thing about living in Mexico. I grew up here. This is my home,”  said Juarez, who worked as an administrative assistant and lives in Southwest Detroit.

Juarez is among an increasing number of undocumented immigrants deported from Michigan and Ohio since Oct. 1, including more than 750 criminals. Her crime? Six years ago, as a drug-addled teenager in California, she stole a car and led police on a high-speed chase.

Juarez’s case is in no way typical. It is a layered drama complicated by her juvenile record, family ties, her corrupt immigration lawyer who was sentenced to prison, and legal orders sent down by officials working under two separate presidential administrations with vastly different approaches to undocumented immigrants.

Maria Garcia Juarez, 23, was brought illegally to the U.S. when she was eight months old. A deportation order means she will leave behind a U.S. citizen husband struggling with leukemia to care for their baby who also has medical issues.

Her plight, however, illuminates the impact deportation has on families as well as the national debate over U.S. immigration policy.

“I made a mistake, but it should not … define who I am. I was a child,” Juarez said. “I was misguided.”

Juarez’s new attorney, Carine Saleh, said Juarez would’ve been granted permission to stay in America under the policies of the Obama administration based on her husband’s illness and her clean adult criminal record. All of that is speculation. There’s no way to be sure.

But one truth rings clear to Detroit’s immigrant community: The Trump administration has changed immigration policy to ensure all undocumented immigrants are targeted for deportation. The change has coincided with an increase in local deportations that has sparked increased awareness, activism and fear.

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As DACA continues to be picked over by Washington, scenes like the deportations of Jorge Garcia and Maria Lopez, will become more and more common. His story in particular is going viral across the country and One Detroit was on hand to document it.

This important One Detroit story on the fate of Ms. Lopez and that of 800,00 Dreamers will be featured on MiWeek with Christy McDonald. Click here for details.

Link to Jorge’s deportation two days ago is below. To learn more about Maria and what she is experiencing with her new life in Mexico, click here.