One of the many horrible things about the deportations and criminalization at the heart of American immigration policy is that it divides families, with parents sent back to Mexico or Central America while their children, birthright citizens, remain in the U.S. While Obama’s immigration record is pretty mixed, his plan to reduce deportations that was overturned by racist judges would have helped solve this particular problem. Alas. But the problem is very real, unless you don’t want Mexicans in this country at all, which then dividing families is only a problem in that you probably wish you could deport the kids too.
“I understand that I’m unauthorized and I know I did something wrong that went against U.S. law, but I’m not a criminal,” she said. “I haven’t committed any serious offenses such as robbery, murder or prostitution.”
Sanchez entered the United States illegally in 2000. Before that, she had attempted to illegally come through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, but agents turned her away.
She met Paulsen in Vista shortly after arriving. He noticed her at the bus stop in front of the body shop where he worked as a mechanic. Paulsen didn’t know a word of Spanish at the time, and the two used an acquaintance as an interpreter. The couple married just one month after they met, in a civil ceremony in Vista.
Sanchez was filing paperwork for legalization in 2006 when she was summoned out of the country, to an appointment with immigration authorities at the U.S. Consulate in Cuidad Juarez. Authorities told her she would be prohibited from returning home to Vista for 10 years, despite the fact that Paulsen, 51, is a U.S. citizen and a Marine veteran.
Immigration law at the time stipulated that applicants seeking legal status must return to their country of origin. But once an applicant who had been living in the United States without permission left the country, they were automatically barred from re-entering for at least three years, sometimes for up to a decade.
“My whole world came crashing down.… You can’t believe that in one minute they’re destroying your life, your family,” Sanchez said in Spanish from her home in Tijuana. She told her husband they should divorce.
“I thought to myself, ‘How are we going to live like this, me in Mexico and my husband in the United States?’ ”
During her first three months in Mexico, Sanchez stayed with her three sons in the popular resort town of Los Cabos, where a brother worked as a physician. Her oldest child, Alex, was 5; Ryan, 3; and Brannon, 2 months.
But Paulsen wanted to be closer to his family, so he rented Sanchez a house in Tijuana. Though Paulsen contemplated moving to Tijuana, he said employment opportunities in Mexico were meager, and crossing the border every day for work would have been too difficult.
In Vista, Paulsen and the boys rent a home with Sanchez’s mother. Paulsen makes the 80-mile drive every weekend to the home in Tijuana.
Clearly, this policy is ridiculous and terrible for millions of Americans who have a family member who is an undocumented immigrant trying to contribute to this country.