Late Wednesday night, Esther Alvarado’s family anxiously stood by as she was released from federal custody in San Diego. As soon as they saw her, the family embraced and cried tears of joy. It had been seven years since Alvarado last stepped on U.S. soil.
Alvardo’s son Jorge Narvaez, has been instrumental in bringing her home: appealing to the internet to explain his mom’s situation to fund her legal fees and even becoming a YouTube sensation with his daughters in the process. Narvaez and his daughter’s cover of the song, “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has racked more than 27 million YouTube views. That video helped land them performances on the Ellen Degeneres Show and America’s Got Talent.
“Without the support and exposure of the internet and people following us on Youtube, my mom could probably be deported by now,” Narvaez said to ThinkProgress late Thursday night. His video also got the attention of Cesar Chavez’s granddaughters and Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA) — “all of that was connected with YouTube.”
In the 1980s, Alvarado crossed into the United States from Mexico without authorization. She raised three U.S.-citizen sons — Jorge, Gustavo, and Eric Narvaez. Alvarado tried to petition for permanent residency through her husband, but that marriage dissolved when the relationship turned abusive. A legal adviser told Alvarado to leave the United States for an immigration interview in Mexico City so that it could “help her legalize her status in the United States,” according to Fusion. She left in 2007 and was stuck in Mexico until March when the National Immigration Youth Alliance (NIYA), an immigration advocacy group, organized a “Bring Them Home” campaign to help her cross the border with a group of about 78 women who had either left the United States or were previously deported.
When the “Bring Them Home” group crossed the border at the Otay Port of Entry in California, Alvarado surrendered to and was detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents. She pleaded for asylum because she was afraid of getting killed if she returned to Mexico, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency rejected her claim that she faced a “credible fear” of persecution, an initial stage in the asylum process. New evidence that had been overlooked came to light allowing her to appeal her case and a judge approved her claim. She was told that she needed to pay a $7,500 bond — “the highest for an undocumented immigrant without a criminal record,” Narvaez explained.
“My [U.S. army sergeant] brother fought for this country. It’s embarrassing for us to have a U.S. Army mother go through this. She was incarcerated in the country where her son fought for,” he added.
Alvarado’s case is now pending in immigration court. She cannot be deported during this time, but her attorney David Bennion told ThinkProgress on Thursday, “She’s not out of the woods yet. She will have at least two hearings: a preliminary hearing and a final hearing, somewhere between six months to several years. Now she’s at least with her family and can prepare in the United States.” Still, while Alvarado will be able to stay in the United States this Mother’s Day, it remains to be seen whether a judge will allow her to spend future holidays with her children.
There are other families who may spend the next Mother’s Day motherless. In just the 2012 fiscal year, an estimated 152,426 U.S. citizen children had a parent deported, according to Human Impact Partners, a health advocacy group. This weekend, advocacy groups in 30 cities across the country will hold voter engagement events to bring attention to “keeping families together.” Five immigration advocacy groups — CIRC Action Fund, America’s Voice, Colorado Progressive Action, NCLR Action Fund, and Together Colorado Action are pushing for the Obama administration to stop deportations. The five organizations are launching a half-page ad in the upcoming Denver Post’s Sunday paper that features Imelda Valenzuela Gonzalez, a Colorado woman in deportation proceedings. The ad names Reps Cory Gardner (R) and Mike Coffman (R) as blocking immigration reform, which could “solve the problem” of having a parent taken away from immigrant families.
During a press call on Friday, Lynne Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, put it this way, “Not everyone knows what it’s like to lose a mother to deportation, but everyone knows what it’s like to miss a mother.”