The Matamoros Family

Ivon is a DREAMer who came to the United States from Mexico when she was 15 years old. She has lived in Arizona with her parents and sisters since that time. After graduating from high school in Phoenix, she got engaged and planned to marry in March 2011. Ivon has always been very active in her church, which is where she met her husband. She and her husband now have a nine month-old U.S. citizen daughter named Zurisadai.

The day before her wedding, Ivon was arrested at a worksite raid conducted by Sheriff Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Ivon was detained and charged with using false documents, which is a felony under Arizona law. She has no previous criminal convictions.

Because Ivon came to the United States as a child, she is eligible to temporarily remain in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She was working at the restaurant to save up money to pay for her DACA fees.

Ivon is ineligible for DACA and legalization because of her felony conviction under Arizona law. She now faces deportation and permanent separation from her family.

The Gutierrez Family

Oscar Gutierrez came to the United States from Mexico about 15 years ago. He came as a young teenager to live with his brothers.

Oscar married his U.S. citizen wife 11 years ago, and they have 2 U.S. citizen children. After marrying, his wife applied for him to gain lawful status and the application was approved. Several years later, Oscar began to struggle with alcohol and received 3 convictions for Driving Under the Influence.

He had been sober for 2 years and was going to Alcoholics Anonymous when he was stopped for driving without a license. His license had been suspended due to the previous DUIs. He wasn’t able to get a ride to the AA meeting that day, so he drove himself and was subsequently stopped for driving without a license.

Meanwhile, Oscar’s wife suffers from severe diabetes. She has been repeatedly hospitalized, including for a stroke and a coma that required her to be on life support. Oscar has found her passed out several times in the floor after slipping into a coma. She is no longer able to work due to her medical problems.

Oscar is still in AA, and he received a stay of removal that will soon expire. But due to his old convictions, no judge can consider the individual circumstances of his case: his rehabilitation and participation in AA, his 2 U.S. citizen children, and being the breadwinner and primary caretaker for his ailing wife. Instead, he is subject to mandatory deportation. His wife needs depends on him for her very survival, and the family fears that if he is unable to remain in the U.S. she will not survive.

The Bailey Family

In 1989, Howard came to the United States from Jamaica at age 17 as a lawful permanent resident, with his mother who is a U.S. citizen. He joined the Navy after graduating high school and was soon deployed to the Persian Gulf to serve in Desert Storm.

In 1995, soon after he returned home after service, some acquaintances sent Howard a package containing marijuana. Federal agents had been tracking the package and arrested Howard. Howard had never before had any interaction with the criminal justice system. His lawyer recommended that he take the plea and serve 15 months.

Upon his release, Howard was determined to rebuild his life. He saved up money to start a business. He first owned and ran a small restaurant with two employees and later started a trucking business, employing up to five drivers. He was able to buy two homes. His wife and children were always the center of his life. He became a mentor for other returning veterans. In 2005, Howard applied for citizenship. He honestly reported his conviction from 10 years earlier and supplied all the records related to the case. After five years of delays, Howard’s application was denied. Immigration officers handcuffed him in front of his wife and children and he was placed in deportation proceedings.

Howard spent nearly two years in immigration jails far from his home. He tried to fight his case and ask a judge to consider his individual circumstances: an armed service veteran who defended the United States, a lawful permanent resident who owned a business and employed several people, a husband with a wife and two children who were dependent on him. But because, under current law, a judge has no ability to consider these circumstances, the judge had to mandate his detention and deportation based on Howard’s old criminal conviction from more than fifteen years before,

Howard was deported in May 2012 and is now in Jamaica, a country he hasn’t seen in 24 years. He can no longer support his family and lives in constant fear for his own life, as deportees are stigmatized in Jamaica and targets of violence. At the same time, his family in the United States is deteriorating. His 16 year-old daughter has gone from being an honor roll student to barely passing and is struggling emotionally. His 18 year-old son is struggling and starting to get into trouble. His home is in foreclosure, and his business has shut down.

Read more about Howard’s story in POLITICO Magazine

The Carrascos Family

Hugo is a DREAMer who came to the United States at ten years old in 1995. His parents brought him and his brothers and sister to go to school. He grew up in a Christian home and has always known the United States as his home country.

He didn’t know about his status until he got to high school and his other friends were getting driver’s licenses and he couldn’t. After he finished high school, he started volunteering for a non-profit organization called Young Life where he worked with at-risk youth. He was a mentor for students who were struggling in school and at home. During that time, he was working as a server at a restaurant.

He married his wife, Leslie, who is an Arizona native, a U.S. citizen and works for the state’s Child Protective Services.

In the summer of 2011, Hugo was arrested by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office while conducting a worksite raid at the restaurant where he worked.

He spent three months in county jail. His wife was pregnant with their first child while he was in jail. He was charged with attempting to use the identity of another, a felony under Arizona law.

He would like to apply for DACA, and his brother and sister have already been granted the temporary deportation relief under DACA.

Hugo and his wife now have two children, Jayden and Hailey. He would like to go to university and study public relations.

He is now in removal proceedings and faces permanent separation from his family.

The Sylvain Family

Roland Sylvain is a green card holder who moved from Haiti to the U.S when he was just 7 years old and has lived in the U.S. for 35 years. Roland is a family man who loves to spend time with his U.S. citizen wife, his four U.S. citizen children and his U.S. citizen stepdaughter. He is known as the anchor of his family.

Roland’s family and home are in the United States. His parents are both naturalized citizens who emigrated from Haiti to build a better life for their family. Roland’s mother is a licensed practical nurse and his father, a former yellow cab driver, is a recently retired school bus driver. After saving up from their hard work, Roland’s parents purchased a home in Piscataway, NJ, where Roland grew up with his brother Carl and sister Cristina. Roland currently splits his time between Jamaica, Queens and Connecticut, where his wife, Lilly, lives with her daughter. His sister lives in nearby New Jersey and his brother lives in Georgia. Roland also has a large, extended tight-knit family in the U.S. (his mother has 9 siblings), most of whom live on the East Coast. Roland has always been one of the leaders in keeping his family–both immediate and extended–together. He is the first to jump in and take care of things when there is an issue. He also organizes family vacations and reunions.

Roland and his wife Lilly are both frontline workers who have stepped up to serve their communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Roland is a Quality Assurance Production Lead at a company that distributes personal protective equipment (PPE). He has been risking his health to work in-person to ensure that other frontline workers have access to life-saving PPE. Lilly is a registered nurse and has also been working in person throughout the pandemic. In these unprecedented times, they have supported each other and relied heavily on one another.

Despite Roland’s strong family ties and many contributions to the community, he is now facing deportation because of Virginia convictions he received after writing someone else’s name on traffic tickets 18 years ago.

In 2002, Roland and his family were en route to Florida for a vacation when they were pulled over for speeding. Everyone was forced to exit the vehicle and sit on the side of the road while a police officer issued Roland three traffic tickets. In a moment of panic, Roland signed someone else’s name on the tickets because his own license had been suspended. Roland immediately confessed his true identity to the police officer, but it didn’t matter; the officer charged him with forging public records. Roland pleaded guilty without being advised of the immigration consequences of his plea. He received a one-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for each ticket he signed. When he asked about the suspended sentence, his lawyer told him it was no big deal; that it was just a traffic infraction. Roland never served any time in jail. After his conviction, Roland moved on, started a family, and developed expertise in quality assurance. He had no idea that his guilty plea would change his life forever.

In 2011, Roland and several family members decided to take a week-long Fourth of July cruise. When they returned to Florida, Roland, along with others on the ship who weren’t U.S. citizens, was taken to an immigration office. An official took his fingerprints and green card. Roland later received a date to appear in immigration court in the mail and found himself in removal proceedings. Immigration officials argued that Roland’s Virginia convictions from ten years earlier were “aggravated felonies” and that he should be deported without the immigration court considering how long he’s lived in the U.S., his family ties, or his contributions to community.

Then, in 2014, something happened that Roland thought would turn his life around: he received a rare grant of prosecutorial discretion from ICE and the immigration court administratively closed his case. Roland thought he would be able to put this legal nightmare behind him. That is, until his case was reopened.

In 2018, four years after being granted prosecutorial discretion, ICE moved to reopen his case, citing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision in Matter of Castro Tum. Roland is now again confronted with the threat of exile and permanent separation from his family and his community.

A pardon from the Governor of Virginia could prevent Roland’s deportation.

The Forrester Family

Dana Forrester met her husband, Astley, while on vacation in Jamaica. Astley was working as a security guard at Dana’s hotel when they met. She was grieving the recent loss of her mother at the time, and discovered that Astley had also just lost his own mother; this brought them close together. After Dana left, they spoke on the phone every day, becoming extremely close and falling in love. She soon returned to Jamaica and they were engaged. Dana became pregnant with their daughter, Lilla Lora, who is named after Astley’s late mother.

After applying for the fiancé visa for Astley to come to the U.S., immigration officials told them they should marry right away in order to secure the waiver needed to consider and waive his previous convictions. As an adolescent in Jamaica, Astley was convicted of possession of marijuana on two separate occasions. The amount was minimal; he was made to pay a small fine to the Jamaican Court and he served no jail time. As a result of these charges, he has been permanently barred from entering the United States.

Dana and Astley got married in Jamaica, but soon discovered that immigration officials had misunderstood the circumstances of their case and had advised Dana and Astley incorrectly; marriage would not provide him the waiver he needed to join his family in the U.S. Because of these old and minor marijuana possession charges, Astley cannot come to the United States under any circumstances.

Dana cannot move their family to Jamaica as she is the primary caretaker for her ailing father and has a son from a previous relationship. She is struggling to take care of her family on her own without the support of her husband by her side. Astley calls Dana every morning to wake her up, drink coffee and read the bible together.

Their daughter talks to him every day through Skype and often says that her “daddy is lost and can’t come home.” She has tea parties and plays games with her dad over the computer. Dana’s son, Imanni, is nine years-old and is very close to Astley, seeking out his advice and help with homework.

The Forrester family is now forced to live their lives together through machines and electronic correspondence. They are waiting for the day that they can live together as a family.

The Immigrant Justice Network is a leading advocacy voice against the criminalization of immigrants in the United States. Grounded in racial justice values, we build power to defend the dignity of all immigrants.