Margarita is 42 years old, from Tarimoro, in the municipality of Tanhuato, Mexico, and the mother of four U.S. citizen children. She has been embroiled in an ongoing legal battle for residency for herself and her husband, Ignacio, for many years. She and Ignacio entered the U.S. when they were teenagers and lived here for 20 years, working different jobs and eventually buying their own house and having a family. Margarita and Ignacio succeeded in establishing a life for their children that was not characterized by the deep poverty and lack of quality education that they experienced while growing up in Mexico. However, in the process of investigating a path to residency, they received poor advice from a lawyer and applied for political asylum, even though it was questionable whether they were eligible. They were devastated to learn that their application was denied and they would be placed in removal proceedings. Ultimately, the family was deported in 2005 to Guadalajara, Mexico, and Margarita and Ignacio were banned from returning to the U.S. for 10 years.
In order to keep the family together, all of the children came with Margarita and her husband to Mexico. They missed their home and struggled in school, where they had inadequate teachers and were made fun of for their non-native Spanish. Margarita recounts how her daughter, Bianca, had an English teacher who would ask her to teach the class sometimes. As a result, they dropped out and spent some time being home-schooled by Margarita, who had trained in the past to be a pre-school educator. Bianca, as well as Margarita’s eldest son, eventually returned to live with relatives in the Bay Area to finish high school. Bianca worked multiple jobs throughout her high school years to support herself and her brother, and then attended San Francisco State to study and graduate with a degree in Criminal Justice. Unlike many of her peers, Bianca has had to shoulder the responsibilities of an adult from a young age, and do so without the emotional support of her immediate family, which she was only able to visit once a year. While in the past she held jobs that included cleaning night clubs at late hours, she now interns at an immigration law firm with the hope of one day becoming an immigration attorney. She was invited to be a summer intern for Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D.C. Her accomplishments speak to her intense persistence and strength of spirit.
Now working with a different attorney, Francisco Ugarte of Dolores Street Community Services, Margarita finally sees the possibility of family reunification in the not-so-distant future. Francisco has worked with Margarita since 2011 and was able to waive her entry ban and gain legal permanent residency for her. As of recently, Margarita lives in the U.S. with Bianca, all of her sons, and her elderly, ailing mother. Francisco currently works towards waiving the ban on her husband’s entry. Margarita shares that the separation of their close family took its toll on her, and her children’s, mental health. She stresses that nothing can replace parents’ constant love and support in order for children to thrive. (“Mentalmente, ellos sufren en mucha depresion porque nadie los va a tratar como nosotros, sus padres…nunca, nunca, nadie va reemplazar el amor de la madre y del padre a los niños.”/“Mentally, they suffer in a lot of depression because no one is going to treat them like us, their parents…never, never, no one is going to replace the love of the mother and the father for their children.”)
Margarita awaits the marvelous day when her husband will be with her again and the whole family can return to their life together in San Francisco. She says that maybe then, they can all gather in Francisco Ugarte’s room for a picture for this post.