MANITOWOC, Wis. (CNS) — Jennifer Martinez waved in vain through tears of fear and frustration as the windowless white bus left the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation center in Chicago shortly after 7 a.m. March 23. Inside the nondescript bus, Jennifer’s husband and the father of her four children, 32-year-old Jaime Martinez Espinal, his wrists cut and scraped from handcuffs binding his hands, prepared for his forced return to Mexico because he was an undocumented U.S. resident. “It was so heartbreaking. Our oldest daughter, Isabel, who is 6, was so upset she kept throwing up.The worst part was how they treated him like a common criminal,” said Jennifer, who packed her four kids in a borrowed car and raced from Manitowoc to Chicago after learning for the second time in seven days that the Department of Homeland Security planned to deport Jaime. Supporters of Jaime, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., say the deportation of an individual with no criminal record is a violation of a recent policy issued by President Barack Obama designed to stop such family breakups.
“To think a family has been broken up to comply with an outdated immigration policy,” said Sister Marlita Henseler, parish director of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Community in Newton, Wis., where the Martinez family are members. “Our federal government needs to do some immigration reform. It’s been due for 10 years.” Known as a hard worker who put in 70 hours a week at his restaurant job and spent his spare time volunteering at the local YMCA, Jaime left his home in Mexico City in 1998 and crossed illegally into the United States.
“Like most people, Jaime came to the U.S. to seek a better life for his family,” said Stacy Taeuber, an immigration attorney from Madison who represents the Martinez family. “The fact is there is no easy path, even for those undocumented residents married to U.S. citizens, to attain legal status. That’s part of what is broken in this system. Even if you marry a U.S. citizen, it could take up to 10 years (being) outside this country before attaining legal status,” she told The Compass, newspaper of the Green Bay Diocese.