By Elizabeth Perez
Note: Elizabeth Perez—Cleveland native, Marine veteran, and mother of two—shares how the deportation of her husband, Marcos, in 2010 has severely affected her children and herself. Thank you to Elizabeth and HOLA of Ohio for this story.
“I have an understanding of rules and regulations; I am a veteran of almost ten years. I was highly successful in the Marine Corps, and I made the hardest decision of my life when I decided not to reenlist. I felt that the Marine Corps was not the best place or lifestyle for raising a family. Family was and is the most important part of my life.
I met my husband, Marcos, in a way one only thinks happens in the movies. I fell in love, and I fell hard. We had our first son, Pelé, in 2010. To become a new mother and be with the love of my life was the happiest I had ever been. When our son was four months old, I found out we were going to have another child. I shared the great news with Marcos and then decided to take a nap with Pelé. Little did I know that I would never see Marcos in our home again. While I was napping, Marcos went to work. He was pulled over for running a red light. The police could not identify him and called Immigration Services. After only one month, Marcos was back in México.
I, on the other hand, was left pregnant, jobless, broke, and caring for an infant. The smallest things we took for granted became the biggest problems for me. Stress and separation started to take its toll on my mental state. I worried about everything, which began to physically affect me. I lost a lot of weight, and I would wake up in the middle of the night with a pit in my stomach. I could not eat, I could not sleep, and I was falling apart fast. I could barely leave the house. Everyone was worried about me, so I went to see someone about it. I was told that I have panic disorder and anxiety and that it is directly related to my husband’s deportation and our family separation. I still battle with it on a daily basis.
My children have also suffered. The separation from their father is scarring them. Pelé began to have night terrors. He would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and say some of the only words he knew: “bye-bye, da-da, bye-bye, da-da.” I thought they would stop, but after four months, he was still having them. I took him to a family counselor at age two and was what I already knew. He had stress about his father and the night terrors were how his body dealt with the stress. About one month ago, a few days before Pelé’s third birthday, I was sitting on the bed with both of them. Out of the blue Pelé looked at me and said “Where Daddy go?” He was bawling uncontrollably, saying “I wanna go Daddy’s house Mommy? Where Daddy go?” It was as if he just realized that minute that his daddy was not here.
I constantly ask myself “Why am I here? Why am I not in Mexico with him?” God put us on the planet to be together, but I am here and he is there. The reality is that we couldn’t make it in Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish well, and we will be better off if I obtain my degree now.
Marcos has also suffered. He is away from his children, and he has no way of supporting us. He loves his children more than anything, like all parents do. He has wanted to risk everything and cross the border many times, but that is not the way we want to do this. We want to do it the right way, but every door has been slammed in our faces. Recently he had his visa interview, but he was declined for another interview until 2020.
I have always considered myself to be a strong woman. I’ve been to boot camp twice, and I went to a war zone and volunteered to go back. I earned 300 out of 300 on my physical fitness test in the Marine Corps. I take the maximum amount of classes and have a 3.9 GPA. I am constantly trying to achieve more, yet changing this situation is one task I cannot do myself. I have reached my breaking point. I just want my family to be together.
We have never spent a Christmas together with our children. They have never had him on their birthdays. I have never had a wedding anniversary dinner with my husband. He has another daughter from a previous relationship, Daisy, who is also suffering without a father. Our lives are moving forward, and we need him home with us. I need him. Pelé needs him. Daisy needs him. We all need him.”