My View

His Only Crime Was Reuniting With His Family

Susan Ramos (seated, center) and her three children. 
National Journal
Susan Ramos
Add to Briefcase
Susan Ramos
March 19, 2014, 7:57 a.m.

Susan Ramos, 39, is a fact­ory work­er and a moth­er of three who lives in Ment­or, Ohio. She is also the ex-wife of Al­fredo Ramos, a Mex­ic­an na­tion­al who has lived, worked, and raised a fam­ily in the United States for two dec­ades. Since a Feb­ru­ary traffic stop, Al­fredo Ramos, 40, has been held in a fed­er­al de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity and now faces jail time, de­port­a­tion, and a life­time ban from the United States.

Last week, a fed­er­al grand jury re­turned an in­dict­ment against Al­fredo, and he is set to make his first crim­in­al court ap­pear­ance this Thursday, March 20 in Erie, Pa.

Susan and Al­fredo’s fam­ily is one of the es­tim­ated 16.5 mil­lion mixed-status Amer­ic­an fam­il­ies made up of cit­izens, doc­u­mented, and un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants trapped between the wait for im­mig­ra­tion policy re­form and the prac­tices of law-en­force­ment agen­cies. Pres­id­ent Obama has re­peatedly called on the na­tion’s im­mig­ra­tion-en­force­ment of­ficers to fo­cus de­port­a­tion ef­forts on un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants with ser­i­ous crim­in­al re­cords. However, in­creas­ingly small shares of the un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants de­por­ted each year meet this cri­terion.

Last week, Obama ordered the en­force­ment agen­cies to re­view their policies and pro­ced­ures in the in­terest of cre­at­ing what the White House de­scribed as “more hu­mane” prac­tices. Susan Ramos talked with Next Amer­ica about her ex­per­i­ence with the na­tion’s tangled im­mig­ra­tion policy.

I was a single mom and an Amer­ic­an cit­izen born and raised in Ohio when I met Al­fredo. He had been liv­ing and work­ing in Paines­ville, Ohio, for about 10 years and came in­to my life when I needed him most. He stepped up, be­came a fath­er fig­ure to my old­est son, and helped me learn how to be a strong wo­man and role mod­el for my fam­ily. We even­tu­ally mar­ried, and these were some of the best years for us as a fam­ily.

But all that changed about 15 years ago, when I re­ceived a call from Im­mig­ra­tions and Cus­toms En­force­ment that I’ll nev­er for­get. Al­fredo was be­ing de­por­ted back to Mex­ico. We had no idea how or when we’d see each oth­er again. I was nine months preg­nant with our first child when he was de­por­ted. I begged him to come back, but our son Cris­ti­an was born without his fath­er present. And so Al­fredo came back to be with his fam­ily the only way he could — by cross­ing the bor­der without au­thor­iz­a­tion and re­turn­ing to Ohio.

The next sev­er­al years were dif­fi­cult for us and our fam­ily. Our daugh­ter Di­ona was born, and she was very close to her dad. Al­fredo lived in con­stant fear of get­ting picked up by ICE and sep­ar­ated from his chil­dren. Be­cause of his status, he struggled to find a steady, good-pay­ing job, but even­tu­ally found one in a loc­al fact­ory. I as­sumed the role of primary pro­vider. Still, the fin­an­cial and emo­tion­al strain placed a heavy bur­den on all of us and ul­ti­mately led to our di­vorce.

Des­pite our sep­ar­a­tion, we found a way to hold our fam­ily to­geth­er, and Al­fredo re­mained a con­stant and act­ive fath­er in our chil­dren’s lives. His child-sup­port pay­ments helped me take care of the kids. He was also there for me and the kids whenev­er I would suf­fer the de­bil­it­at­ing symp­toms of dia­betes. There were times when I was of­ten too weak to even open a door. On those days, with just one phone call he would pick up the kids and care for them, un­con­di­tion­ally.

Our lives were turned up­side down once again last month. On Feb. 8, 2014, Al­fredo was on the way to the mall with our daugh­ter and an­oth­er fam­ily mem­ber when their car was stopped by the Ment­or po­lice. Even though Al­fredo was only a pas­sen­ger in the car, he was ques­tioned about his im­mig­ra­tion status. The of­ficer called Bor­der Patrol, and Al­fredo was taken away in hand­cuffs in front of our 11-year-old daugh­ter.

For over a month now, Al­fredo has been held in a de­ten­tion cell in Erie, Pa., where he is locked in 23 hours a day. Most up­set­ting: A grand jury has in­dicted him for “il­leg­al reentry,” a fed­er­al felony, and put him, once again, in the po­s­i­tion of be­ing ripped away from his fam­ily. I am stunned that the U.S. at­tor­ney, Dav­id J. Hick­ton, has de­cided to go after Al­fredo of all people, a mod­el mem­ber of this com­munity and fath­er, in­stead of go­ing after dan­ger­ous crim­in­als who pose a real threat in our com­munit­ies. Al­fredo has no crim­in­al re­cord. Ap­par­ently for Mr. Hick­ton, the lack of im­mig­ra­tion re­form means his of­fice can en­gage in a free-for-all and tar­get fam­il­ies like mine.

What the U.S. at­tor­ney fails to real­ize is that go­ing after Al­fredo means go­ing after our en­tire fam­ily. It means my kids are faced with the pro­spect of life without their fath­er, and it means I am faced with the pro­spect of los­ing fin­an­cial and emo­tion­al sup­port for my chil­dren, and the shared par­ent­ing we do for the be­ne­fit our chil­dren’s fu­ture.

Every day, I try to ex­plain to my kids why their fath­er isn’t here and when he’ll be back, if ever. Every day, I struggle with a budget that is tight­en­ing without his sup­port. And many days, it’s even hard to muster up the en­ergy for ba­sic tasks, let alone rais­ing our chil­dren on my own without his sup­port. I don’t know how to ex­plain to them that their won­der­ful fath­er — who came here to find a bet­ter life for his famil — might not be around for fu­ture birth­days, hol­i­days, or to see them grow up.

There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing “just” about our justice sys­tem. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is soon to make his­tory by de­port­ing its 2-mil­lionth im­mig­rant, and I can’t help but think about all the oth­er fam­il­ies out there who are go­ing through the ex­act same situ­ation as us.

My ques­tion to the ad­min­is­tra­tion is this: Who be­ne­fits when fam­il­ies get ripped apart and when U.S. chil­dren are forced to grow up without a fath­er? Our gov­ern­ment needs to stop pun­ish­ing its own cit­izens by go­ing after im­mig­rants, like Al­fredo, whose only real crime was try­ing to re­unite with his fam­ily.

I’m plead­ing with U.S. At­tor­ney Dav­id J. Hick­ton and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to please let my ex-hus­band re­turn to his fam­ily. Let him re­unite with us and con­tin­ue to be the mod­el as­pir­ing cit­izen he’s al­ways been.

Susan Ramos is the ex-wife of Al­fredo Ramos, a 24-year Ohio res­id­ent, who is cur­rently be­ing held in de­ten­tion and pro­sec­uted for “il­leg­al reentry” by the re­gion’s U.S. at­tor­ney.


Are you part of the demo­graph­ic that is the Next Amer­ica? Are you a cata­lyst who fosters change for the next gen­er­a­tion? Or do you know someone who is? The Next Amer­ica wel­comes first-per­son per­spect­ives from act­iv­ists, thought lead­ers, and people rep­res­ent­at­ive of a di­verse na­tion. Email Jan­ell Ross at jross@na­tion­al­journ­ And please fol­low us on Twit­ter and Face­book.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
6 hours ago

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
7 hours ago

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
7 hours ago

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
10 hours ago

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

Obama Compares Peres to ‘Giants of the 20th Century’
11 hours ago

Speaking at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, President Obama "compared Peres to 'other giants of the 20th century' such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who 'find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment.'" Among the 6,000 mourners at the service was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama called Abbas's presence a sign of the "unfinished business of peace" in the region.