ORLANDO, FL (NBC News) — A family is splitting in two in Florida, where the wife of a former Marine is being deported after exhausting all her appeals.
Tears flowed as Alejandra Juarez and her younger daughter checked in for their flight to Mexico Friday at Orlando International Airport.
The 39-year-old woman lived in the U.S. for 20 years without trouble until a traffic stop in Davenport, Florida, exposed her legal status. She entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico when she was 18, escaping violence in her home country.
“I came here illegally. I’m ashamed of it. I know I did something wrong,” Alejandra told NBC News. “I seriously thought that was the only exit out of a situation I was living in. I think that saved my life.”
Three years later, she met and married Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez in Florida. Her husband is a naturalized citizen from Mexico and a former United States Marine. He describes himself as a conservative who voted for President Trump and even wrote the president a letter that was delivered through his congressman asking for a reprieve, according to Stars and Stripes.
There is an immigration policy for members of the military and their families called “parole in place” to “recognize the important sacrifices made by U.S. Armed forces members, veterans, enlistees, and their families.” The Citizen and Immigration Services website says they provide “discretionary options such as parole in place or deferred action on a case-by-case basis.”
But the president’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has left few exceptions for unauthorized immigrants even in cases when a crime has not been committed. The family says Juarez’s most recent “parole in place” application was rejected, even though she’s checked in regularly with immigration authorities over the last 20 years.
“I love this country. This country has given me great things because we have worked hard. But the America we are living in now is getting full of hate,” Alejandra said.
The couple’s two daughters, ages 16 and 8, are American citizens. Juarez has decided to take her youngest daughter with her to Mexico while her husband and oldest daughter stay in Florida.
“I don’t really want to go to Mexico but I know I need to because I’m too young and also I want to go for my mom … because I don’t want her to be lonely,” her youngest daughter told NBC News.