Immigration detainees from Honduras arrive by bus to board a deportation flight (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) (.)

How one family’s immigration struggle defines the deportation debate

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may have been on to something when he said President Obama could halt deportations if immigration reform dies. To understand why, take a look at the Hernadez-Ramirez family in Ohio.

Like many American families, the Hernandez-Ramirez clan includes both American-born citizens and undocumented immigrants. Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez entered the country illegally from Mexico but his wife, Seleste, is American, as are Pedro’s three stepchildren and one biological son. Among his stepchildren is 24-year-old Juan, who suffers from cerebral palsy and requires constant care from Hernandez-Ramirez. Despite the family’s deep roots, immigration authorities threatened to split them up.

The Hernandez-Ramirez family is hardly an exception when it comes to illegal immigration, they’re actually closer to the norm. An estimated 9 million people living in America belong to “mixed-status” families that include at least one unauthorized immigrant and one American-born child, according to research by the Pew Hispanic Center.

According to the Hernandez-Ramirez family attorney, David Leopold, Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez was deported earlier this year after a traffic stop prompted authorities to turn him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He and Seleste had been together for 10 years at the time and, in May, she traveled to Mexico so that the two could be legally married. But even then, the couple faced significant legal hurdles to getting him a visa thanks to his immigration history. After concluding that Juan could not be left alone, Hernandez-Ramirez once more risked deportation and arrest to return to Ohio. It didn’t take long for authorities to catch up to him—he was picked up by ICE and charged with illegal re-entry. Those charges were dropped, but he remained in ICE custody and still faced removal as of this week.

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