The Sunday edition of the Washington Post published a profile of Javier Flores, who lived in Ohio with his family, including four U.S. citizen children, until he was deported last month. It’s a very compelling story about the very real impacts of what happened after President Obama decided to delay executive action to an immigrant who probably would have qualified for that relief:
Javier Flores awoke again to the raspy ring of a water-damaged phone, and he lifted himself out of the hammock that had become his bed. He splashed river water on his face and pulled on his only pair of pants, designer jeans he had been wearing when two U.S. immigration officers stopped him on his way home from work. Now it was a few weeks later, and the jeans were stiff with sweat and caked in mud from the lime groves. They hung off his waist.
He stumbled toward the phone in predawn darkness, stepping over a chicken before answering on the fifth ring. The call was from the family he had left behind in Akron, Ohio. On the other end of the line he could hear his wife and children eating breakfast.
Nineteen days since he had been deported to Mexico, and each one had begun like this.
“Good morning,” said Javier, 31, and when nobody responded he spoke louder. “Buenos dias?” he said. He could make out what sounded like a spoon clanking against a bowl. “Hello?” he said again, and then finally he heard his wife. “Hello?” she said. “Hello? Hello? Are you there?” He tried to respond but she couldn’t hear him, and after a few seconds she hung up.
He ran his hands along the phone’s wiring to check the connection. He had bought the phone for his parents in 2002, when he first left the impoverished countryside of southern Mexico for the United States. The phone had sat next to the family Bible ever since, its cords snaking across ceilings and blocking doorways on their way to the lone electrical outlet that only sometimes worked. There was no cellphone service in La Mixtequita, population 900. No high-speed Internet or mail delivery, either. The landline was the only connection he had left to 13 years in Ohio, to a wife and four American-citizen children, who at this moment were calling him again.
“Yes,” he said. “Hello? Hello?”
“If you’re talking, we can’t hear you,” said his wife, Marilu.
“It’s me,” he said “Are you there?”
Maybe it was a problem caused by the rainwater that had come in through his leaking roof and soaked the phone. Maybe it was heavy fog in La Mixtequita or a rainstorm in Akron or some other disruption in the 2,500 miles in between.
“We’ll try again later,” his wife said, so he hung up again and waited.
How much of these last 19 days had he spent waiting? And how much more time before then, home in Ohio, just hoping his circumstances might change? In June, he had watched on TV as President Obama promised he would stop deporting certain kinds of illegal immigrants by the end of summer. The president and his staff said they would bypass Congress by issuing an executive action to help people with clean criminal records and American-citizen children — people like Javier. “This means you!” an immigration advocate had written to him, and even though Javier had already been ordered deported he believed his miracle had come. He would be able to stay with his children, ages 10, 7, 4 and 9 months. He would be able to keep his job at the window factory, where he managed 30 people and paid $850 in U.S. taxes each month. “A perfect case,” the advocate wrote again, and all Javier had to do was wait for Obama to say the things he had promised to say.
But then July turned into August, and August turned into September, and Obama decided it was more politically prudent to delay his executive action until after November’s midterm elections. So instead of being offered his reprieve, Javier was sent back to the poorest state in Mexico, where the advocate had sent him one final note. “Sorry,” it read. “Terrible timing.”
Terrible timing. Terrible policy.
The title of the article is An American Dream Deferred: Javier Flores hoped for a reprieve from President Obama, but he was deported to Mexico, leaving his family behind.
It’s worth a read.