Without Action, Minor Infractions Continue to Cripple Immigrant Families

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Dozens of U.S.-born children from across the country traveled to the White House with their undocumented parents to march and demonstrate against recent deportations July 28, 2010. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

An investigation by our partner The New York Times reveals that disruptions to the lives of immigrants families continue at an unprecedented rate.

Of the 2 million deportations that have been carried out under President Barack Obama, two-thirds of the cases involved individuals who committed only minor infractions or had no criminal record at all—a stoplight run or a decades-old misdemeanor charge have the power to fracture a family.

Elizabeth Perez is a former U.S. Marine and mother of two. Her husband Marcos was deported in 2010 after he was pulled over for running a red light. It was the same day Elizabeth found out she was pregnant with their second child.

While families like Elizabeth's wait helplessly for the often-impossible return of their loved ones, lawmakers in Washington are struggling to come to any sort of consensus on immigration reform.

But one champion for reform is Luis Gutierrez, a Democratic Representative from Illinois.

Tomorrow, Representative Gutierrez and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will present a memo to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, in a call to suspend deportations of undocumented immigrants who would qualify for legalization under the immigration reform bill the Senate approved last June.

It's a plan of action that, according to Congressman Gutierrez, is the only option unless House Republicans act on total reform.



Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Elizabeth Perez

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [18]

Our immigration laws should be strictly enforced. All the sad stories are told regarding those who have violated our laws and how it affects their children. They put the children in the position and use the sympathy card. Any suffering illegals and/or their families are feeling is a direct result of their decision to sneak into our country in the first place. Now they should live with the consequences of their actions and not expect the United States to ignore their total disregard and disrespect of our laws.
Our Immigration laws are designed to protect Americans and U.S. society and for our own government to ignore our laws is criminal. Countries have immigration laws for a very good reason. Public safety issues, public health issues, National Security, Sovereignty, and jobs are a few. Lack of inforcement is a detriment to the country in these and many other ways.
Our law makers have allowed illegals to dictate to us and abetted them in doing so. They need to be replaced by those who actually care about the future of this country.
California is dying because of the liberal/progressive/Democrat/RINO mindset regarding illegals. Maybe thetakeaway should spend some time covering this issue.
Those who do not believe in enforcement should never be elected because they are the problem. Our country is being destroyed from within.
We, as a society must make reasoned determinations as to the
consequences of the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws. This country is suffering because of the lack of enforcement and the unfettered invasion.
These people violated our immigration laws and to treat it as no big thing is ridiculous.

Apr. 13 2014 08:12 PM
April Hansen from Spokane, WA

We all need to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for our choices. If Elizabeth Perez CHOSE to marry an undocumented man from Mexico then she should be willing to raise her family in Mexico, at least until her husband can gain legal citizenship.

Apr. 09 2014 01:55 PM

I am married to a USC and have a daughter also USC but when we tried to do the right thing it was nothing but catch 22. I was not allowed to return due to the 10 year bars imposed on me. I have never committed a crime and had been residents of the US for 20 years and came legally and was brought by another american man and never help me to change my status and then got married again and there where our nightmare began. I am out of the the United States since 2008 and left a husband and daughter. Our family life was destroyed, emotionally and financially. I have never collected anything from the government, I had a good job paying good taxes and contribute. The punishment is too harsh and does not fit the crime. I overstayed my Visa because no matter what we do I am not allowed to change my status in the US. When I left the country to see the consulate, I was told I cannot return due to a 10 year bar. We filed for appeal at the AAO but after 2 1/2 years of waiting it was denied. I am here almost 6 years not seeing my daughter, and my husband will come every 2 years sometimes because airline tickets is very expensive. But this is the story of my life same as what happened to other families like mine. I wish that the law will change and they need to amend the 3-10 year bars.

Apr. 09 2014 12:17 AM

I get really frustrated whenever I hear this kind of story on NPR. Indeed it is hard not to feel sorry for the kids trapped in the middle. But I wish NPR shows like the Takeaway (or the worst...Latino USA) would make an effort to look at what lack of enforcement means for everybody.

I'd like to hear The Takeaway have an honest discussion about what's next if there are effectively no rules on immigration. At stake seems to be the whole concept of nationhood. If there are little or no controls on the inflow of people, how could a rich nation like the US offer social benefits like health care, education, social insurance? What about those who have tried to follow the law to get here, aren't they the type of people we really want? And the next interview was with a woman who lived through a genocide and said she had trouble getting her US citizenship, shouldn't people like her get way up front in any line?!

When we have most any political discussion, we compare ourselves to the rest of the world. So why can't NPR shows like The Takeaway compare US immigration enforcement with Canada, the UK, France, Japan, Australia etc? We make those comparisons with guns, health care, carbon footprint, and other measures.

Apr. 08 2014 04:47 PM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

This report was uncharacteristically simple-minded for _The Takeaway_.

I have conflicting views on immigration reform, but the facts as reported in this segment were perplexing and obviously materially incomplete.

Apr. 08 2014 03:33 PM
Chanel Bishton from San Francisco

I have no sympathy whatsoever for this woman's plight. Entering, residing, and working in a foreign country without authorization is a crime. Period. Lots of people, including my partner, who is now a U.S. Citizen enter this country legally and through the proper channels. I can't take another minute of the sniveling of these illegals. As I tell my teenage son when he screws up, well, you shouldn't have done it.

Apr. 08 2014 03:28 PM
Donna from Tampa

I am an immigration attorney. Foreign nationals residing in the US are normally eligible for adjustment if status and to get a Green Card (permanent residence leading to US citizenship) once they marry a US citizen, unless there is a felony or something lelse disqualifying in their background. Can Ms. Perez speak to why she and her husband did not apply for adjustment of status for him once they were married and before he was stopped for the traffic violation?

Apr. 08 2014 02:41 PM
paul from pcb

I agree the immigration system is broken & I agree it's counterproductive. But don't cry about how it's affecting lives , and making your kids sad. You lost the right to cry that it's unfair when you decided to marry an illegal immigrant.

Apr. 08 2014 02:34 PM
Morgan from MI

The lack of empathy here for one of our nation’s heroes is saddening. This woman risked her life voluntarily in defense of our nation so that you could enjoy the freedom to sit at your computers and freely voice your intolerant opinions. Our men and women in uniform should not be denied the freedom to choose their spouses and live with their families in the country they fought to protect. The law prohibiting this veteran from having her family reunited in her own country is too harsh and should be changed. The punishment does not fit the crime. Good for you for speaking up Ms. Perez, and thank you for your service.

Apr. 08 2014 02:14 PM
D Velasquez from Texas

As a Colombian who came to this country Legally, I am completely unsympathetic to Mrs. Perez’s situation. This guys came here illegally from Mexico, married a U.S. citizen, had children with her and never filed for citizenship?? Why do you ask? I tell you why, because most Mexicans don’t want to be U.S. citizens, they just want to take advantage of the freedoms and better life we offer but don’t want to pay taxes or obey the laws. I have a person just like that in my own family, the guy doesn’t have a job but somehow manages to have a very nice truck (all decked out), a house and a place on the lake in Oklahoma…and no one knows where his money is coming from…do you think he’s the only one living like this, NO. How was Mr. Perez supporting his family without identification?
I came here legally, I paid my own way to school, I’ve worked hard for all the things I have, married a former Marine and we pay taxes and obey the laws. Illegal immigration is an insult to people like me!

Apr. 08 2014 01:08 PM
Stuart from Portland Oregon

Every one has the freedom to make choices . If a US citizen chooses to marry a person who is hear illegally then there are consequence associated with that. Millions of people come to our country legally every year, those people are doing it right. We should not reward people for doing it wrong.

We may feel for families who have made poor choices about marriage and kids involving persons here illegally. My grandparents immigrated here legally. My great grandmother came to this country legally but was never a citizen. As a child I still remember having to drive with her and my parents to Canada to leave the country and come back in when her visitors visa expired.

Just because people want to come to this country and do not want to go through the process or wait their turn does not give them the right to come here illegally, stake a claim, have a family, have kids and the claim foul when they are made to leave.

About 6-7 years ago I was visiting in Mexico. Some of the news of the day was of Mexico's trouble dealing with illegal immigrants coming in to Mexico over their southern boarder from central and South America. The illegal immigrants were taking jobs away from the Mexican people. Hmmm.

Every country has the right and a duty to protect, and secure its boarders.

America will welcome people with open arms. Just go through process.

Apr. 08 2014 12:58 PM
Jack LaBear from Oregon

Ms. Perez went on and on about how patriotic she is, how she loves her country and served her country etc. Unfortunetly, she seems to believe she is above the law. She married an illegal immigrant. His violation of of the law was about more than running a traffic light.The fact that the officer had to call her to identify the husband says that he was unable to produce a driver's licence or proof of insurance. Driving without license and insurance is a violation of the law, and puts other citizens at serious physical and financial risk. Her playing the children card for sympathy is a disingenuous ploy to distract from her husband's flouting of the law of the United States that Ms. Perez claims to love so much. Her attitude and behaviors reflects poorly on the Marines from which she benefitted at the tax payer's expense. I feel little sympathy for her plight. What happened to personal responsibility? Is she an accessory to her husband's breaking US laws?

Apr. 08 2014 12:44 PM

ethnic cleansing??? that's just stupid

Apr. 08 2014 12:38 PM

WHAT THE HELL IS A F-ING FORMER U.S. *MARINE* DOING MARRYING AN UNDOCUMENTED WORKER!?!? She is full of so much bull it's unbelievable. She needs to either learn to live with her situation, get a divorce or just back her ears and join her husband permantely.

Apr. 08 2014 12:38 PM

Interesting. As a long time listener and supporter to Public Radio I chafe when others refer to it a "Bleeding Heart Liberal" radio, but this show is so SLANTED that I cannot even defend NPR.

It's very simple....It you marry an illegal alien, someone who VIOLATED the laws of the United States to come here, you run the risk that your partner will be deported and you better have a Plan B. No different than if you marry a tax cheat, you run the risk they will go to jail.

Why is it that illegal immigrants have any right to "special consideration" without being subjected to due process.

This is either a nation of laws or it isn't. (Oops...I forgot, it's a nation of laws that the president is willing to enforce for political expediency). So if you don't like the law so much that you can't exist under it...either leave, or change the law.

Apr. 08 2014 12:36 PM
Catherine Sengel

I'm confused. If Elizabeth is an American citizen, doesn't her husband become a citizen as well by marriage?

Apr. 08 2014 11:43 AM
joe from miami

Today's story was propaganda. Even stipulating that all of the facts were accurate in this case and nothing left out, how can we surmise that it is a random example that typifies those deported for minor crimes rather then a carefully cherry-picked one? Moreover, will The Takeaway do an equally tragic and moving story that illustrates the other side of this issue? Perhaps one dealing with an illegal immigrant multiple offender who kills someone? (it shouldn't be hard to find lots of these) Or even a more prosaic piece that represents the feelings of those who have witnessed the down side of uncontrolled inflow of illegals into their communities? Perhaps also a story or two on how illegals hurt low wage American workers told from the perspective of a single mom? The question isn't one of pitting one emotional tragedy against another rather it is a question of law and sovereignty. While you tirelessly present one side of this issue, listeners may wonder why you are so circumspect when it comes to representing others less congenial to the typical liberal mind. Also, while Obama claims to be making careful intelligent distinctions, nothing here seems to attach to him. Is this because perhaps he is making these distinctions but huge bureaucracies make mistakes and no law will ever be perfect (see ACA) or is he misprepresenting the actual program?

Apr. 08 2014 09:53 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The president is not a friend of immigration reform, he probably wants it to fail so he can blame the Republicans - it's not the Republicans that are holding it up. The president has deported more people than anyone.

Apr. 08 2014 09:42 AM

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