THE BLOG
09/03/2014 09:59 am ET Updated Nov 03, 2014

Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans

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By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR

We're lifting up the stories of individuals who would benefit from administrative action to address the suffering caused by increases in detention and deportation.

Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has squandered the best opportunity in years to provide a solution to our broken immigration system. Instead of providing a solution that promotes family unity, creates new jobs, and reduces the deficit--all stated interests of the GOP leadership--they have turned their backs on their colleagues who were pushing for a lasting solution, as well as the American public, which supports immigration reform. Doing nothing, however, is not an option. The failure of the House GOP to act reaffirms the need for President Obama to act instead.

When I think about who the GOP has failed, I think of the Maldonado family. The consequences of inaction are not abstract for them, and the failure does not just impact the Maldonados. It affects the community that has rallied around them, including an amazing advocate who is known as the guardian angel for immigrants in Ohio.

I first learned of the Maldonado family in 2011 when Manuela and her sister, Rosa, were in deportation proceedings and faced the heart-wrenching struggle of deciding what to do with Manuela's sons, who are U.S. citizens. Her children need their mother and aunt, who has been a caretaker for the boys ever since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Manuela's husband from their home and deported him.

The Maldonados had lived quiet, productive lives in Ohio for nearly 10 years, yet a 2007 immigration raid changed their lives forever. ICE officers entered their home looking for someone else, but upon learning that the parents and aunt of the Maldonado boys were undocumented, they put them in deportation proceedings. Tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees later, Manuela's husband was deported to Mexico, and she and her sister faced the same fate. Due to the tenacity of advocates in the community, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted Manuela and Rosa an exercise of prosecutorial discretion since they are not a priority for removal--they are productive members of their community, raising children who were born here.

I met one of the boys when he came to the NCLR National Latino Advocacy Days. He talked to members of Congress and the Obama administration about how his family lives with the daily fear of being separated. The separation of his father has already been too much for the family to handle. Manuela's husband attempted to reenter the U.S. this year to be reunited with his children and provide for them. Instead of looking at the totality of circumstances--a father of U.S. citizen children who had lived in the U.S. for nearly 10 years without criminal record--DHS saw a "recent border crosser," to use their terms, and sent him back to Mexico as a priority deportation.

Unfortunately, the Maldonados' story is not uncommon. Too many children and families live in fear of losing their loved ones because of our broken immigration system.

The administration must act to provide commonsense relief to individuals who have longstanding ties to our country and are not a threat to national security.

This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.