TAMPA, Florida — Just in time for mother's day, a mom of two was reunited with her kids and husband.
Alejandra Juarez returned to Polk County after spending nearly three years in Mexico. The mom and military wife was deported in 2018. At the start of this year, and with a new presidential administration in place, Juarez was able to apply and receive humanitarian parole.
The protection lasts for at least a year. Juarez is grateful, but also knows she is on borrowed time.
"I still can't sleep," said Juarez. "I feel like if I wake up is going to be just a dream. So I can't go to sleep. I need to be awake."
But it is not a dream. There was a lot of hard work that went into getting Juarez back to her family.
Florida congressman Darren Soto has been advocating for the mother since her deportation was announced. He says her case highlights the inadequacies in the current immigration system. Juarez is not a criminal, is married to a naturalized citizen who served in the Marines, and has two American children.
His hope is Congress will act soon to change immigration law.
“We know whether it's passing the US Citizenship Act presented by President Biden, and under our analysis, it appears that, under that act, Alejandra would be able to stay and have an eight-year pathway to citizenship," said Soto.
"We're also focusing on more narrow efforts, like the Protecting Patriot Spouses Act, which would allow a military spouse or veteran spouse to be a consideration in immigration court. And also allows the judge to have some discretion under the totality of the circumstances."
Juarez's story gained national attention after being featured in the Netflix docu-series, "Living Undocumented." The series went viral. And, it was also how Juarez learned of immigration attorney Andrea Martinez.
"And she, from Mexico, sent me an email to my firm and said that she wanted to meet me," said Andrea Martinez, Attorney for Alejandra Juarez. "And then she said, 'Andrea, do you believe in God?' And I said, 'Yes, I do. Thank you.' And she said, 'Because God gave me a dream that you are going to help me get reunited with my family.' And this was in late 2019. And at that point, honestly, I didn't have a lot of faith."
Martinez officially started working with Juarez this year. She filed for humanitarian parole and was able to get Juarez back to Polk County.
Juarez has been back only a couple of days, but she is not wasting any time with her family. The group was able to spend mother's day together and enjoyed delicious food cooked at home by mom.
"I'm gonna start being the mom that I should always have been. And, and that was, you know, taken away from me," said Juarez.
Juarez is also working on finding a path to permanent US citizenship. Her story, while not over, shines a light on immigration in the U.S.
"His military service was ignored. And my US citizen kids, they were hurt. So I think I think this wasn't necessary. We went through all this for no reason," said Juarez.
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