Sgt. Temo Juarez was a Donald Trump guy. An Iraq combat veteran who served as a Marine infantryman and then an Army National Guardsman, his friends called him a “super conservative.” With his wife, he brought up their two daughters in central Florida. He supported Trump in 2016, eager for a change.
But now, “I am eating my words,” he told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
On Aug. 3, Juarez and his family became the latest victims of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration.
On that day, his wife, Alejandra, left the country under a deportation order. She had come to the United States from Mexico illegally as a teenager two decades ago and had until now been living undisturbed with Temo, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and their daughters, both natural-born Americans. This past week, Temo flew to Mexico with his daughters, 9-year-old Estela and 16-year-old Pamela — to leave his younger daughter there, even though English is her first language. He can’t do his construction job and take care of her in Florida by himself.
Temo Juarez believed Trump would deport only illegal immigrants who were criminals, and his wife had no record.
Instead, as the family fought Alejandra’s deportation, young Estela, with unicorns on her T-shirt, wept as she spoke to TV cameras: “I really do want to stay with my mom and dad. I want us to be together and stay in my house. I don’t want to go to Mexico. I want to stay here.”
For Sgt. Juarez, this was the Trump administration’s unique way of saying, “Thank you for your service.”
Trump’s “family separation” policy is most visible on the border. This month, the administration said it still had not reunited 572 immigrant children it separated from their parents. The administration, in a court filing, said it should be up to the American Civil Liberties Union — the group that sued over family separation — to locate the parents.
But, as the Juarez case shows, the wanton cruelty of the immigration policy isn’t limited to new arrivals. “Zero tolerance literally ripped this family apart,” Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida, the Juarezes’ congressman, told me. “The administration is so extreme on immigration that they’re deporting the spouses of military veterans.”
Soto and colleagues introduced legislation and wrote letters to help the Juarez family. No use.
At political rallies, Trump often exults: “Oh, do we love our veterans!” He also talks about illegal immigrants who “infest” the country.
In real life, the ones Trump loves and the ones Trump demonizes are not so far apart. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tells me it doesn’t track the number of military spouses subjected to deportation. But the advocacy group American Families United, extrapolating from census figures, estimates there are as many as 11,800 active-duty military service members with a spouse or family member vulnerable to deportation. And that doesn’t include veterans’ families.
Since the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War, and the Irish Brigade during the Civil War, immigrants have had a central role in the U.S. military. That’s true now, too, says Jon Soltz, an Iraq veteran who founded the group VoteVets. If zero tolerance is enforced, he said, it will feel as if “everybody has a family member who is affected.”