SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A high-profile immigration case with ties to our community is in the hands of the Judiciary Committee. The Protect Patriot Parents Act was formally reintroduced to the 117th Congress Monday by Congressman Salud Carbajal.
If approved, it would give legal status to immigrant parents of U.S. military service members.
"Family's everything to us and to my mom," said Cesar Flores. "To be reunited with my mom would mean everything. It would mean the world."
Flores, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Air Force, spoke publicly Tuesday via Zoom about his family's ongoing separation that began two years ago, this April.
Flores' mother, Juana, the family's matriarch -- mother of 10 and grandmother to 18 -- was deported to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 30-years. She was flagged by ICE while traveling back from Mexico where she had visited her dying mother.
Carbajal's staff said his timing was "buoyed by the Biden Administration's desire for immigration reform and inspired by his own experience as an immigrant, veteran and naturalized citizen."
"Bringing families together and I feel that should be a right for every citizen that is serving in the military," said Juana's daughter, Cristina.
According to Juana's legal team, an estimated 10,000 service members have family members who are "deportable."
"If that family member has no violations, is a productive member of society, there's no reason why that person, that family member, should not be granted some status in this country." said Judge Frank Ochoa (retired).
"Thank God we have a new administration, a new Congress that will respond favorably to Congressman Carbajal's legislation," said Judge George Eskin (retired).
Ochoa, Eskin and Immigration Lawyer, Kraig Rice, have worked arduously with other advocates on Juana Flores' behalf. Rice called her decade-long deportation "cruel and unusual punishment" and considers her case a family matter, not an immigration matter.
"I would challenge anyone who's thinking about this issue to think about their own mother, their own father, their own grandmother," Rice said during Tuesday's Zoom session. "'How would I feel if that were our family?'"
"It's hard to carry out your daily duties just day to day, knowing your mom is in a different country," said Flores.
Juana Flores' legal team cites circumstances that did not allow her to apply for legal status during the three decades she lived in Goleta with her husband and family.
Federal extensions for humanitarian reasons ended in April of 2018.