U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Gibram Cruz arrived home in California from his posting in Arizona last week. The reason for the visit wasn’t the holidays; he would be back on base before then. The purpose was to see his mother, who is about to be deported from the country he serves to protect.
“I’m here essentially to say goodbye to my mom,” the 30-year-old army officer told The San Diego Union-Tribune on Sunday.
Rocio Rebollar Gomez, 50, is an undocumented immigrant who has lived in San Diego on and off for over 30 years. She owns a business and a house in the United States, and raised her three children here, and she has no criminal record. But on Dec. 4, she was ordered to self-deport to Mexico within the month—and the federal government refused to grant her discretionary protections provided for relatives of military service members that would allow her to stay longer.
“Honestly I am worn out. I feel like my life is gone and everything I have is here—my whole life,” Gomez told The Daily Beast on Monday.
“I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, my life is on hold. No one should be going through what I am going through.”
She is expected to return to her native Acapulco, Mexico—a once tourist-filled beachside city that has since become overrun by cartel violence—on Jan. 2.
“They are essentially saying her immigration history overrides all of the hard work and the life she created in the United States and thus doesn’t warrant discretion,” her attorney, Tessa Cabrera, told The Daily Beast on Monday. “Her son is worried that his military status and title will threaten her safety in Mexico, but there is nothing we can do.
“We’re hoping for a miracle.”
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the “Patrol in Place” program makes parents, spouses, widows, or children of active-duty U.S. armed forces members eligible for discretionary deferred action for up to two years.
“We recognize the important sacrifices made by U.S. service members, veterans, enlistees, and their families,” the agency’s website says. “To support these individuals, we provide discretionary options such as parole in place or deferred action on a case-by-case basis.”
According to Cabrera, ICE has denied Gomez the protection because she had a prior order of removal. A USCIS spokesperson declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Gomez’s deportation is especially heartbreaking for her military son since he cannot travel to visit his mother in Mexico. As an intelligence officer, the 30-year-old must adhere to military travel restrictions and a lengthy process to leave the country.
“He has no idea when and how he is going to see his mother after she is sent back to Mexico,” Cabrera said.