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Gehrke: Tale of mother facing deportation should be a wake-up call for Utah

First Published      Last Updated May 22 2017 03:22 pm

"Where is mama? Where is mama?"

If you weren't moved by Carlos Juarez telling of his children's anguish at the prospect their mother could be deported, you might not be human.

As a parent, it's haunting to contemplate.

"Where is mama?"

Mama, Silvia Avelar-Flores, was being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Cache County and facing deportation and separation from her husband and their three children, Adrian, 10, Jazira, 8, and Ariana, 2.

"Every night we just cry," Juarez said.

Avelar-Flores was brought to this country when she was just seven and her parents overstayed a visitor visa. She built a life in the only home she's known, raised her family and, according to her husband, recently received a work permit.




"Yet she was rounded up by border ICE agents, the latest case in an immigration crackdown under a Trump administration eager to deliver on the xenophobic rhetoric served up during the campaign.

Sen. Orrin Hatch and his staff, fortunately, did the right thing, stepping in and working with ICE to get Avelar-Flores released and at least delay her deportation temporarily, buying her time to try to resolve the issues and keep her family together.

No question, the senator deserves tremendous credit for intervening.

But it never should have gotten to this point, and we should not allow countless other families, perhaps those without the community support or a powerful senator to come to their aid, to be torn apart.

And children shouldn't be forced to live in fear that when they leave for school in the morning it may be the last time they see a parent.

This is exactly what Donald Trump said he would do, except he promised the roundups would only target "bad hombres."

Reasonable people doubted his claim, and rightly so. The Washington Post reported that between Jan. 26 and March 13, 5,441 immigrants without criminal records were deported.

Avelar-Flores' family is fighting becoming another in that tally. She is not a "bad hombre." She has no criminal record and there is no evidence that, in her two dozen years in this country, she has done anything other than build a life, contribute to her community and be the best mom she can.

Yet here we are, dealing with a situation that more than half a million voters — not to mention Utah's elected officials who stood by Trump and endorsed these policies — helped create by buying into Trump's rhetoric. You allowed this to happen and you own this.

For the more than 600,000 Utahns who rejected Trump, and anyone else repulsed by what they're seeing, it's another reason to maintain the resistance to Trump's divisive policies, to hopefully guarantee other Utah children don't have to ask: "Where is mama?"

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

 

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