Juana Flores is coming home. After an appeal to Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Congressmember Salud Carbajal succeeded in securing a one-year humanitarian parole for the Goleta resident and mother of 10. And just in time for her birthday on June 9.
Flores and her husband, Andres Flores, had raised their family in Goleta over the past three decades, but an entry in her immigration record from 1999 was used to block her return several years ago. Flores had visited Mexico to see her mother before she died and attend her funeral in 1999. As she returned to the United States, she was stopped and turned back on an administrative deportation. However, one of her sons had a disabling condition that required medications that only his mother could get him to take. Flores was able to return and remain on a humanitarian waiver. But in 2019, the Trump administration suspended her waiver and deported her, despite her family’s pleas.
Ever since, her family, retired Judge Frank Ochoa, attorney Kraig Rice, and a group of people dubbed “Team Juana” have attempted to reunite her with her family. This reached a climax late last year when her son, Caesar, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, received orders assigning him to Turkey. He and his wife decided that she and their two-month-old daughter would stay with family in Goleta, but he wanted his mother home to help raise her. The little girl is one of 18 grandchildren awaiting Juana Flores’s return.
“Juana has been living for the day when she can care for her grandkids,” said Paula Lopez, a member of Team Juana and Judge Ochoa’s wife. Ochoa described the efforts they’d made to bring Flores home as an important caretaker for her ill son and diabetic husband.
“It’s the result of just the steadfast and large number of local officials who said this is wrong, our federal government needs to change this decision,” and they included the city councils of Santa Barbara and Goleta, members of the Board of Supervisors, school district board members, people who participated in a vigil in January, and even last-minute requests to Trump for a pardon. That, however, did not get a response.
“You had people standing up who didn’t have a personal interest,” Ochoa said, “other than that this was a productive member of the community who presented a strong case, who had a strong community background, and whose son was serving in the military overseas.”
Carbajal turned up the heat by introducing his Protect Patriot Parents Act to the 117th Congress to give military parents lawful permanent status. It’s in a House immigration committee currently, but Ochoa quoted Carbajal: “Now the work begins in changing the immigration laws, not just a one-year ‘hi and bye.'”
In a statement, Carbajal promised he would “continue fighting to secure a permanent stay for Juana and reunite other families that were cruelly separated under the Trump administration. The families of our service members deserve our respect and admiration, not deportation.”
Flores is slated to return on Friday, once she makes it through the consulate in Tijuana. “There’s no reason she can’t be here forever,” Ochoa said. “This is her home.”
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