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Landmark immigration legislation connected to Goleta grandmother and service member son

WASHINGTON, D.C. - High-profile immigration legislation with ties to the South Coast is moving through the political pipeline with bipartisan support.

The Protect Patriot Parents Act was introduced Tuesday in front of the nation's capital by Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24), who was joined by Rep. Maria Salaza (FL-27).

The measure would make parents of U.S. military service members eligible to adjust for Lawful Permanent Resident status.

"The Protect Patriot Parents Act is a bill that protects immediate family members of our service members from deportation," said Carbajal. "This bill is bipartisan. It has passed the House in a bipartisan vote."

The legislation centers on the case of Juana Flores, a Goleta grandmother deported in 2019, despite living in the United States for more than 30 years. Her large family includes a service member son, U.S. Air Force Sgt., Caesar Flores.

Juana Flores and her granddaughter, Andrea, were among others who joined Carbajal, who is also a veteran.

"My grandma is not a felon," said Andrea Flores. "And there are many people in her situation that haven't committed anything wrong and still being deported and taken out of this country when we have family members that are serving and sacrificing for this country."

Juana Flores was visibly emotional during Tuesday's event, often turning toward her granddaughter to wipe away tears.

"I believe we haven't done any bad. We have worked. We have not done a single crime," said Juana Flores. "We have our family. We came here to do good and work and to do good for this country."

Santa Barbara's legal community and advocates fought to have Flores returned back home to Goleta; that happened in 2021.

Her legal counsel, Kraig Rice and Hon. Frank Ochoa (Ret.) issued a joint statement:

“We support the Protect Patriot Parents Act and similar legislation to provide a pathway to permanent residence/citizenship for individuals who serve in the US military and their immediate family members. Deportations of US military service family members defy the public interest and contradict the social and moral conscience of the United States of America. We have a responsibility as a nation to provide family unity for those who serve in our Armed Forces."

Carbajal's staff revealed that recent estimates project as many as 80,000 undocumented spouses and parents of U.S. active duty and former service members live in the United States.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Beth Farnsworth

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