You would not guess to look at me, but I am a first generation US citizen on my mother’s side. My mom met my father, a retired decorated Air Force pilot, in El Paso in the mid-1960s. They fell in love and married in my mother’s home town in Jalisco. During that time, immigration was a civil law matter and the couple simply showed the marriage certificate at the Port of Entry and mom was permitted to enter the US. A few years later my older sister was born in 1967. I followed in 1970. Then, in 1972, while my mother was pregnant with my younger sister, my father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 48.
Sometime later, during the 1980s Reagan Administration amnesty program, my mother obtained her lawful permanent residence. Soon after, she was placed into deportation proceedings for making a false claim to US citizenship at the port of entry by mistake. I remember that day vividly because I was in the car when the officer directed us to secondary inspection. We spent the afternoon there. I was seated in a hallway outside of an office where I could hear a female immigration official yelling at my mother that she had no right to claim US citizenship. She cut up the new permanent resident card my mother had presented. They gave my mother several documents as we were leaving.
In 2013, after I had begun working as an immigration attorney, I filed a Freedom of Information Act Request for my mother’s immigration file and I was surprised to find that the documents she received that day were a referral to the immigration court. The US government was trying to deport my mother. When I asked my mother about that day decades earlier, she said she was not sure what to do, so she had asked her parish priest about the documents. He referred her to a brand new Diocesan Ministry, Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services. My family directly benefited as one of the first cases taken by the fledgling organization all those years ago.
Today, I am the Deputy Executive Director of the organization which has helped OVER HALF A MILLION PEOPLE over the 36 years of its existence. In 2021, we served 37,095 people. Today, over 99% of our clients receive completely FREE legal services. Your donation this El Paso Giving Day helps us to continue this important work for families just like mine. Thank you for reading and God bless you.
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