Monday March 17, 2014
The Paezes are once again in an uncomfortable limbo — waiting for federal immigration officials to decide whether they can stay in the United States.
The Paezes, from left: Maria, Armando, Ana, Juan and Martha.
Armando Paez his wife Martha and their three children, all originally from Colombia, traveled to Chicago on Friday to meet with a rep from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The elder Paezes' temporary stay of deportation expired and they were to meet as part of their request for another stay of deportation.
Strong, mixed reaction
Cases like the Paezes' are at the center of the debate over federal immigration reform. The local case has spurred a strong local response. Here's a sampling of comments from an Elkhart Truth Facebook post
on their case: Erin Baier Hartman:
The Paez family are wonderful people. They were originally political refugees who fled from a corrupt regime in Colombia... They have contributed to our community for the last 15 years. They value hard work, education, community, and freedom — the very things we, a nation of immigrants, hold dear. They deserve a pathway to citizenship. Period. Laura Woolley:
They have willfully, repeatedly broken the law. We need to stop picking and choosing when it's okay or not okay to enforce the laws and just enforce them...that's why they were created.Sherry Wisler:
Let them stay!Sonia Mann Bango:
Send him home!
But no decision came out of the gathering, so the Paezes, now living in Elkhart, are left to ponder. And wait. And wonder. Will they have to travel back to Colombia after about 15 years here, no matter the roots they've established here? No matter their concerns they'd be a target of a leftist guerrilla insurgency in the South American nation?
"We just wait for them to make a decision," Armando Paez said Saturday, after returning to Elkhart from Chicago. "We don't know anything. Wait, Wait."
Limbo is a familiar position for the Paezes, who first came to Indiana in 1999, subsequently overstaying their visas and running afoul of U.S. immigration law.
They've been fighting for more than 10 years to fix the situation, for permission to stay in the United States. They've been turned back at times, but they've also managed to secure temporary reprieves, permission to stay and work while their case winds through the system. Most recently, they received year-long stays of deportations, in 2012 and 2013, and now they hope for something similar.
The three Paez children are in somewhat more secure positions. Ana, Maria and Juan, have permission to remain in the country under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, initiative, geared to the children of undocumented immigrants. But Armando and Martha Paez are still subject to deportation under an earlier order, pending exhaustion of their appeals and requests to stay.
"The same, the same as ever," Armando Paez said.
There's not much more he can say. He puts his faith in God, crosses his fingers and tries to keep up the usual routine — working as host at a pair of Elkhart restaurants, maintaining the home in northwest Elkhart.
"We aren't in a position to do anything. Just wait, wait, wait," he said.
Tim Vandenack is a reporter at the Elkhart Truth newspaper. Reach him at email@example.com or 574-296-5884. Visit him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack.