Maximino Hoz loves his five children. He used to take them fishing and make them carne asada – grilled meat – and play with them in the park. On the weekends he would take them to work with him, where he was in construction.
“Everything fell apart when he was taken away from us,” Reyna Hoz, his wife, told NBC Latino in Spanish.
The undocumented Maximino, who came to the U.S. in 1993, was detained 11 months ago and taken to Broward Detention Center in Florida. There he presented his case asking for relief from deportation, submitting letter’s from his children’s teachers, therapists and friends who said that his family would suffer unbearably if he were sent back to Mexico.
But it was the heartbreaking letter from his 12-year-old son Anthony which has brought attention to Maximino’s plight.
“Dear Rex Ford, please I beg you with all my heart to leave my dad with us Because we need him so he can pay the bills of the house, and we love him so much,” the powerful letter begins.
“Me and my brothers are so sad because we don’t have my dad with us. We beg you not to send my dad to Mexico, Because we don’t want him to be killed over in Mexico. Please I beg you with all my heart to leave my dad with us and I promise you I will be a good student and I will be somebody in life to help this country. I thank you for reading this letter.”
Anthony’s mother, Reyna, says her son wrote the letter on his own, without any prodding or coaching from anyone.
Reyna says Anthony, along with two of her other children, is sick. He suffers from gastritis and constipation, along with fever and vomiting. He is also very anxious and bites his nails in church and in school.
“My children’s school has been calling and telling me the kids aren’t listening, are misbehaving, fighting with others and cursing and it’s driving me crazy,” she says.
Anthony’s letter was first posted by DREAMActivisit.org, a group of Dreamers who usually only take on causes which further their work towards passage of the DREAM Act. But when they heard about the Broward detention center, which takes on “low priority” cases, they became involved because immigrants are allegedly being held 6 to 8 months on average and sometimes up to a year and a half, according to activist Radym Davis.
NBC Latino reached out to the Broward Detention Center, but did not receive comment before publication.
Juan Escalona, who founded DREAM Activist, says his organization has engaged in protests inside and outside the detention center, getting themselves taken in and subsequently banned for protests and hunger strikes.
Maximino’s wife, Reyna, has received some help. A woman offered to be of service and takes her children to see their father every two weeks. After an initial lawyer didn’t do much for them because she says he realized he wasn’t going to get paid very much, an organization called “We Count”took up her cause and provided the family with a lawyer.
The case will not be easy to win. The Huffington Post reports Judge Rex Ford to whom the letter was addressed, has a reputation for tough rulings. Sammy Aliseris, Mazimino’s former lawyer, told the Huffington Post, Maximino has a criminal record, including driving without a license and two DUIs, which makes matters worse. In Maximino’s favor is the fact that a letter from one of his employers said he was a good worker who never missed a day of work. The director of a community organization said he contributed hundreds of hours volunteering at a food distribution center in his free time.
She says she has tried to keep it together but that her children are suffering. After visiting his father, her youngest son told her how he handles the time with him.
“I try not to ask Dad questions so he doesn’t get sad,” the young boy said.
“Every time I see daddy I want to cry but I hold it in.”