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'Had It Been For Immigration Authorities, My Husband Would Have Never Come Back'

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT
Inside the detention facility in Karnes City, Texas.

From Texas Standard:

There are stories that are hard to cover in many newsrooms because they're too dangerous to be told, too revealing, too embarrassing, or too controversial. But what if those stories could be told without revealing the person's identity?

On the Standard, we air these stories as a way to bring you “The Whole Truth." Today, a husband and wife recount a very challenging time in their lives.

His work permit was still valid the day he got deported. He showed up to his yearly check in appointment.


“Pues yo no sabia que ese dia ya no iba a regresar. Me acuerdo que fui al banco y regreso y me lo lleve (al nino de 2 anos) bien temprano porque tenia la cita temprano en San Antonio. Y mi hijo se me abrazaba y no me queria dejar ir – llore y llore como que ya lo presentia. Tenia dos anos mi hijo y chillaba y yo mi hijo no chilles yo ahorita vengo – pero no – mi hijo como que presintio que no iba a regresar pronto.”

“I didn’t know I wasn’t coming back,” he says. “I remember that morning. I went to the bank. I had my baby with me. The immigration appointment in San Antonio was early, so after the bank I dropped him off and he didn’t want to let go of me. It’s as though he knew. He cried and cried. He was two years old and he wouldn’t stop crying and I was like, ‘I’ll be right back!’ But I think he felt I wouldn’t return.”

Once he was deported, his wife was forced to keep the family afloat by herself.

“I felt like I was underwater,” she says, “only coming out for air to move on to the next task and then the next. It was an endless cycle of anxiety and stress.”

She hired an attorney and became an activist.

“Para que el regresara, primero – la aplicacion estaba aceptada, pero habia que pedir perdones, el abogado es muy carisimo, me meti como activista duro, fuimos a muchas Iglesias de diferentes religions a educar los anglosajones, como es que en verdad funcionan las leyes de migracion, porque hay muchisima ignorancia. Mi percepcion acerca de las leyes, acerca del gobierno, lo que quieren es separarlo a uno para ver si las familias se rompen y al mismo tiempo esos hijos nunca se llegan a formar parte del future de este pais. Y siempre se quedan como diciendo los Hispanos no hacen nada, los Hispanos no van a la escuela, los Hispanos no se preparan – tener mas argumentos para seguir oprimiendonos – esa es mi percepcion y creo que es muy valida.”

“At some point,” she says, “I started believing that the goal of deporting people like my husband is to weaken us by breaking up our family ties. That way, our children are never part of the future of this country. That strengthens the argument that Hispanics don’t amount to much, that they don’t go to school. These are arguments that keep us oppressed. This is only my view, but it is a valid view.”

She began collecting letters of support from her congressman, her mayor, and the dean of her daughter’s college.

“I do not accept the words ‘it can’t be done.’ They are not a part of my lexicon,” she says.

Five years later, her husband finally was able to return on December 23.

“I don’t feel his return as a Christmas present,” she says, “because I fought for it. I demanded it. Had it been for immigration authorities, my husband would have never come back. I earned it and my activist community earned his return.”

Do you have a story you've never told but want to get off your chest? We'll tell your secret but not your identity. Email us at Texas and tell us "The Whole Truth."

Written by Jen Rice.