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.