Editor’s Note: The surname of the subject in this article has been omitted to protect his the identity.
Imagine waking up to go to a court date and then being brought to an unfamiliar place.
Then imagine not talking to the person you love for a whole day, being left only with their belongings with no clue where they are.
This is reality for Johnny. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has done it again.
This last year have been hard on Johany Lebron, Johnny’s girlfriend of three years. Lebron is a senior at Cabrini University and was in the middle of her spring semester when her world was turned upside down.
“We were just so happy and ICE came and took our dreams away,” Lebron said. When Johnny was taken into custody by ICE, Lebron started to reach out for help and wanted to tell their story.
The immigration system and immigration policies in the United States have been considered flawed for a long time.
According to Pride Immigration, deportation usually occurs when a person violates the law and they are aware of it. ICE is the United States federal government law enforcement agency charged identifying and eliminating border, economic, transportation and infrastructure security flaws.
Currently, Johany has someone who is dear to her in detainment.
“Over 300,000 immigrants are deported each year, so tens of thousands of families are separated by deportation each year,” Abel Rodríguez, assistant professor of religion, law and social justice and immigration specialist, said.
After being stopped for a traffic violation, Johnny was given several court dates and probation sentences. When Jonny appeared for his first probation visit, he was told his probation officer was in a meeting and ICE wanted to speak to him. Unknowingly, his probation officer was never there and ICE took him away minutes after arriving.
It is common for ICE and the state to work together to detain immigrants, especially those who may get caught up in the court system.
Johnny was always open and honest about being an undocumented immigrant. He was brought to the United States at a very young age by his parents. In Johnny’s eyes, he thought that if he demonstrated good conduct by going to his court date and showed he was someone who was abiding by the laws, he would not be punished.
In the U.S., there are currently half a million people in the deportation system. It may take up to years for Johnny to come back the Unites States after being deported because he was undocumented for so long.
According to Rodríguez, those who leave the country and have been undocumented for six months to a year can be barred from returning for three years. If the individual has been undocumented for over a year and he or she leaves, the person can be barred for 10 years. If they are deported, it can be more permanent.
“There are permanent bars within immigration. Once a person is deported, they may never enter the United states again,” Rodríguez said.
It is now a year later and this journey has been very hard for Johnny and his girlfriend. Johnny has not been able to adjust the lifestyle back home.
“I will never be able to adapt to living in Mexico,” Johnny said.
The process of the deportation has not changed much. Johnny is hoping he can potentially come back to the U.S with a work visa. The couple copes with stress of being apart with constant phone calls.
Johnny’s deportation has had a negative effect on Lebron because they have lived together and she was such a humbling person for him.
“The only thing that separated us were the hours of me being in school and him going to work,” Lebron said.
Marriage has always been an option for the couple, but now with the deportation, it seems impossible.
The United States Citizenship Immigration Services, or USCIS, takes over the process of an immigrant and resident marriage.
“That process involves collecting evidence that proves you are in a bonafide relationship. They’ll want to see that this isn’t being done for immigration purposes,” Rodríguez said.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, about 3.4 percent of United States population was made up of undocumented immigrants. This amounts to just over 11 million people. Johnny was a part of that immigrant population.
Immigrants come to the United States for many reasons. This includes better economic opportunity, or to even flee crime that is happening in their own country.
It is very common for immigrants not to apply for citizenship because they are afraid of the cost or that they will be put on the radar for deportation. In Johnny’s case, this was reality.
“There just aren’t opportunities within immigration [system] for people to apply,” Rodríguez said.
Johnny is hoping to get a work visa to get back in the United States or the couple will live together in Mexico.
“The policies that should change are sending immigrants back who come from their country for the sole reason to better themselves,” Lebron said. “Can I continue to hold on to this stress or let the storm pass?”