A mother’s journey: Family reunited in Juárez after deportation threatens to keep them apart
Read it all and see more photos here.
The prettiest corner in the small room is where the Christmas tree stands, where sisters Mireya, Yulisa and Milka Nevarrez huddled last Wednesday afternoon to see their presents and arrange them one more time.
The last time the girls’ family used the white, plastic Christmas tree was in their apartment in El Paso, near Fox Plaza, two years ago.
Not last year. In August 2010, their mother Antonia Campos was deported to Mexico after living 17 years in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Her five children, all U.S. citizens and between the ages of 7 and 15, lived in foster homes in El Paso until last July, when Campos succeeded in regaining custody of them.
Now the family is together again. On Sunday, they spent their first Christmas in Juárez.
Campos and her children currently live in a small, one-room house on the city’s west side. The stairs to their home are carved in the dirt. The bathroom is outside the house and has no water heater.
Last year, Campos made a risky decision — after 17 years of living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, she returned to her home state of Durango to see her dying father.
After the visit, Campos sent her children back to El Paso ahead of her, where Campos said neighbors helped feed them and take them to school.
On Aug. 29, she tried crossing the Rio Grande through the town of Guadalupe, east of Juárez. Her smuggler told her to go down a canal until she arrived to the other side. The water was deep and Campos, who doesn’t know how to swim, almost drowned. She caught a tree branch and pulled herself out.
It started raining. Campos said she kneeled in the middle of nowhere and asked God to tell her what to do. A few moments later, Border Patrol agents spotted her. Exhausted, she sat down and waited for them to come.
The following 11 months were hard for Campos. She moved in with a sister in Juárez and started looking for a job. Besides being deported and separated from her children, her father and two of her brothers died because of health complications.
See also the earlier story.
Antonia Campos, third from right, sits with her children, from left, Mireya, Arnoldo, Mirka, Yurisa and Armando in their one-room house on the west side of Juárez. The family was together this week, spending their first Christmas outside of El Paso, after their mother was deported in August 2010, with the siblings separated into foster homes. (Special to the Times)