A woman who lived in the United States for nearly 20 years and who married an American man and gave birth to a daughter who is American has had her life turned upside down after she was deported to Mexico. She paid taxes and even had a social security card. Letty Stegall never even thought she was in danger of being deported, given her marital status and the fact that her daughter, Jennifer Tadeo-Uscanga, was born in the U.S. But, little did she know, that all changed in 2012 when Stegall had a fateful brush with the law that put her on the government’s radar.
Letty was hit with a misdemeanor DUI charge that year. At the time, it didn’t seem like something that would result in her being sent back to her native Mexico, the place she’d left in 1999 as a 21-year-old. During the Obama administration, cases like hers were considered low priority by immigration officials. But since Trump has ordered a crackdown on illegal immigration officials have been taking a harder look at cases like Stegall’s and hers caught their attention. Six years after the misdemeanor, that and the fact that she’d illegally entered the U.S. in 1999 caught up with her. And it has resulted in a family torn apart.
Stegall had been living in Kansas City, Missouri, with her second husband, Steve Stegall, and her daughter. She and Steve had been running a bar together. Now she monitors the bars security cameras on her laptop and greets bar patrons the same way she mothers Jennifer — on a smartphone via FaceTime.
“I wish I was there. That’s all that I want,” Letty says in an interview from her parents home in Boca Del Rio, Mexico. “I want my family back.” With the promise of greater prosperity, Letty paid a smuggler $3,000 19 years ago to get her across the Rio Grande. She’s been in the U.S. ever since, and living the American Dream — until February when she was arrested by ICE agents and then hustled out of the country days later without even being allowed to say good-bye to her family.
Letty’s daughter has been hit hardest by her absence. Jennifer celebrated her 17th birthday and went to her first prom in recent months — all without her mother present due to her deportation. “You get the motherly love from a call,” Jennifer told The Associated Press, her voice breaking. “But not the hug.” And Steve is without his wife and business partner. He talks with her nightly and they pray together over FaceTime. At the end of the call, he kisses the screen of the phone as he says good-bye to Letty. She might have to wait 10 years until she’s eligible to return to the U.S.
Letty’s in-laws voted for Trump, but now say they regret having done so after seeing the harsh realities of his immigration policies. They have now put their retirement on hold to help Steve run the business as they all wait to see if Letty will be able to return to the U.S.
Watch the story of a family torn apart below.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.