A Latino U.S. Army officer feels “betrayed” by his country after his mother was deported to Mexico on Thursday.
Rocio Rebollar Gomez, 50, was ordered to self-deport, which she did last week, after the federal government rejected granting her protections provided for relatives of military service members that would allow her to stay in the country longer.
While the “Patrol in Place” program allows parents, spouses, widows and children of active-duty U.S. military members to apply for discretionary deferred action for up to two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied the mom of three the protection because she had a prior order of removal.
“I feel betrayed, to be honest,” 2nd Lt. Gibram Cruz told CNN affiliate KSWB. “A country that I’m serving, which I’ve served proudly … These policies that are put in place to keep my family safe have let me severely down.”
The Daily Beast reports that because the 30-year-old, who called his mom’s removal “inhumane,” is an active member of the armed forces, he cannot travel to visit his mother in Mexico. As an intelligence officer, he is forced to abide by military travel restrictions and must undergo a lengthy process to leave the country.
As for Rebollar Gomez, she will be unable to return to the U.S. for at least 10 years.
Cruz, who recently completed his four years in the army, decided to stay in the military partly because of the immigration protections given to relatives of active-duty service members.
“I joined to serve the country and keep my family safe,” Cruz told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Now, I’m facing dangers here on my home front.”
Rebollar Gomez has lived in San Diego for more than 30 years. The business owner first arrived in the U.S. in 1988. Seven years later, while she was seven months pregnant, she was picked up during an immigration raid at a hotel where she worked at and was deported the same day. She returned illegally to be with her two children, a cycle that repeated itself two more times.
“Yes, she has a deportation record, but she came back for us,” the woman’s daughter Karla Cruz said, as reported by CNN. “Everything that she’s done is for us to keep us here, to give us an opportunity. She’s the heart of our family. She’s taught us everything we know.”
The woman’s family is urging Sen. Kamala Harris (D-NY) to take action in her case.
“All that we can really hope for is a legislative change that can clear my mom’s prior deportations because that was the only thing holding her back,” Xitlaly Cruz Rebollar, the mother’s youngest daughter, told NBC News.
In a statement to the news outlet, Harris said she was disappointed in ICE’s decision and would “fight for her and all families who are subjected to unnecessary deportations.”
Rebollar Gomez is currently in Acapulco, Mexico, a beachside city that has become overrun by cartel violence in recent years. Her son is on a new journey of his own.
“He has orders to report to Fort Hood in Texas on Friday,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “He’s already committed to at least three more years in the military.”