Since late last year, we’ve been trying to tell the story of Maria Perez and her deported husband, Brigido Acosta-Luis. Last fall, Brigido was deported and forcibly separated from his family after more than a decade of living and working in the country. In the last few months, Maria has been featured on our weekly Office Hours call as well as a Washington, DC Congressional briefing where she told her story, called on Congress to pass immigration reform, and asked President Obama to stop deporting family members like hers.
Today, her story is published at The Hill. Read it in full below:
I voted for President Obama because he said he would fix our broken immigration system. I believed it when he said he would focus enforcement on criminals and not hard-working immigrants. But my opinion changed this past fall when my husband, Brigido Acosta-Luis, was deported.
When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) first detained Brigido, I knew it would be a fight to get him released, but I thought it was a fight my family could win. But as the days went by, I found out that I was wrong. There was no bond set, and lawyer after lawyer told me there was nothing my children and I could do but pray that he was deported quickly.
Brigido and I met at a family gathering 6 years ago and were inseparable from that day forward. He became the only father figure my daughter has ever known, and our family became complete four years ago when our son, Xavier, was born. Our kids have always been our top priority and because of Brigido’s undocumented status, we did everything we could to stay out of trouble and keep our kids out of harm’s way.
My husband was targeted by ICE based on what’s called an ‘expedited removal order’ from 2002. Back then, Brigido entered the United States with a valid tourist visa but was inexplicably detained, stripped him down to his underwear, and interrogated for hours at the airport. He was bullied into signing a paper and flew back to Mexico on his own ticket. According to ICE, this counted as a deportation. So when they found him again in 2013, all they had to do was reinstate that prior order of deportation and send him to Mexico.
I couldn’t just sit by and watch him be deported. So, I called everyone I knew to ask for help. Petitions were put up online, calls were made to Congressional offices, anything that I thought of to keep my husband in the United States, I did.
I even joined up with other activists to halt the deportation bus as it was leaving the area with Brigido inside. Through tears and tinted windows, I told my husband that I loved him, that I wasn’t going to stop fighting and that I was going to bring him back. I was going to fight to get that deportation order withdrawn.
That night, when I spoke to Brigido from Mexico, he told me that officers on the bus blasted the air conditioning to muffle our voices, despite the fact that it was already freezing outside. Brigido spotted me, but one of the ICE officers told him to sit down. At that point, we both had enough. Brigido asked the officer “Why? What are you going to do to me? Are you going to put me in jail? Because that’s where I’m coming from. Are you going to deport me? Well, isn’t that what you’re doing anyway? What are you going to do to me NOW?” The officer had no response.
Brigido was deported on November 19,, 2013 and has been living in Mexico ever since. Our four year-old son misses his dad and is going through a depression. Our thirteen year-old daughter’s grades are going down, and I’m going to have to close our business. When you deport one person like Brigido, you leave behind three broken hearts.
My kids are U.S. citizens. I’m a U.S. citizen. At what point did deporting immigrants trump our rights American citizens? At what point did it become more important to deport a peaceful, productive human being than to let my children be happy and grow up with a father?
On the cusp of the two-millionth deportation, I’m calling on the Obama administration to stop the pain. I’m speaking to you as an American.
Perez is a U.S. citizen and wife of Brigido Acosta-Luis, an undocumented immigrant who was deported November 19, 2013. She resides in Schaumburg, Illinois with their two U.S. citizen children.