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Voices of mixed-status families

In part three of our “Border Patrol” series on immigration policies, we meet the family of Alfonso Martinez Sanchez, a 39-year-old father of five American children (above, Alfonso with his wife, Juana, and children).

Alfonso was deported from Vista, California after a sheriff’s deputy asked him for his identification at a local convenience store. He subsequently died trying to reenter the United States through the desert.

Below, a series of audio recordings by Cindy Huang of PBS NewsHour, who spoke with five families struggling with the realities of U.S. immigration law.

Huang writes:

Families living in the shadows. Struggling with separation. Being forced to leave the United States.

These are the stories of mixed-status families, where one spouse is a U.S. citizen and the other lacks status. These families told the PBS NewsHour how immigration policy drastically altered their lives as lawmakers begin consideration of a comprehensive measure to overhaul the current system.

Erika Orrantia by PBSNewsHour

Erika Orrantia’s husband was issued a lifetime bar from the U.S. with no chance for a waiver because he made a false claim to citizenship when he was 23 years old.

Crystal Mendez by PBSNewsHour

Crystal Mendez’s husband is barred from the U.S. for 10 years for living in the country illegally for more than a year.

Melissa Watkins by PBSNewsHour

Melissa Watkins’ husband was deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Both U.S. citizens, Watkins and her daughter moved to Mexico City to be with him as he completes his 10-year bar.

Cher Orlanda by PBSNewsHour

U.S. citizen Cher Orlanda lives in Portsmouth, Va., with her children. Her husband is currently barred for 10 years and lives in Mexico.

Lance Paxton by PBSNewsHour

U.S. citizen Lance Paxton lives in Shelby Township, Mich. His wife lives in Mexico with their children. She is serving a lifetime ban for making a false claim to citizenship.



  • k5r4

    Cry me a river. These examples should teach all these illegal aliens that they need to return to their home country, apply to enter this country legally & wait their turn like everyone else. Fantastic, the more illegal aliens that receive a 10 year or lifetime bar the better because they will spread the word that lying to ICE will not get them anywhere except to separate them from their legal spouses & children for life.

  • Anonymous

    So enforcement of the law is bad and illegal entry is justified by consequences occurring after 100s of millions unsustainably do so? Why be selective about focusing on those consequences. Why not note the prison population of illegals? The educational process impacts on cost and what is involved in educating those with poor English skills and parents with less than an 8th grade education. And don’t forget the population “footprint” consequence. There’s unlimited data there.

  • Anonymous

    What’s needed is for U.S. citizens to begin understanding what is best for their country, and non-citizens to begin doing what they can to make their country one that seriously addresses the future.

  • k5r4

    US citizens know & understand what is best for their country-no amnesty for illegal alien lawbreakers, not allowing people to enter this country without permission.

  • Mademoiselle B.

    You should watch the movie “Harvest of Empire” (or read the book by the same name). You can find it online if you search on google but this is the official website for the movie:

    You would know that decades of US foreign policy is why people are desperate to leave their country even if it means entering yours illegally. Americans aren’t going to solve anything (and the illegal immigrants will not stop trying) until they realize what the root cause of it is and that their government is largely responsible for much of it.

    But until then, your xenophobia isn’t going to change anything for the better and is going to hurt a lot of people in the process. People who speak like you are truly not deserving of the privileges they enjoy for no other reason than where they were born. People like you deserve to wake up one morning and find themselves in the shoes of a Mexican husband who’s just been deported and is desperate to get across the border to his family. You’d change your tune real quick.

    People like you are the ones who deserve to experience what it feels like not to have any of those privileges you take for granted. You didn’t get where you are because you deserve it more than they do or because you worked more – you got there because of where you happened to be born. That’s it. There’s no merit in that, so you should be grateful for your luck and feel empathy and compassion for those who were not lucky to be born with those privileges, as you were. And you should be ashamed of being so arrogant.

  • Shauna Ventura

    The Bible says to not separate what God brings together. This law was made not using our Christian values.

  • Sarah

    Unfortunately most people base their opinions on misinformation and racist beliefs. Its sad that the loudest voices are the ones of hate.

  • Ramona8

    You should be ashamed of yourself. This is about families with one spouse and children being legal US citizens and families being torn apart. How do you not value family and loved ones like you do? Perhaps you need a hug. Better yet, let’s find you a good Latina woman, have you fall in love with her, then rip her away from you. Maybe you would change your tune. These are people… not dogs. But reading your reaction to this documentary, if this is your response… I wouldn’t want to see your dog either.

  • Linda Weese Eyler

    You are an insensitive animal…below contempt… it is ok for the patrol to rape, lie and steal from these people because they were so fearful of these men but these families that just want to live together threaten your security?? This is just another political football being used to hide the money waste on transportation they justify their jobs with to get more of the Federal Budget. We have more to fear (even American Citizens) from the Border Patol than we do from the immigrants crossing over. Do you forget that many of these people have legal family here paying taxes and not getting a penny of it back.. you don’t know what you are talking about “stand in line”…like there is a line?… No there are thousands of miles of needless redundant reams of paper with little to insure your saftey from these people. The people working in these agencies are paid a primium and not accountability taking advantage of you and I and the waste is beyond contempt when it comes to those lines you speak of. For hundreds of years people we have had open borders and people have trades and gone back and forth. When was the last time a Mexican citizen took down a Federal Building? Never! The ones responsible can afford to cross with Visas and passports freely to set their destructions. Give me a migrant worker and I show you a man who is not too proud to work 3 jobs and pay taxes to feed his family. He lives in a cash society and never complains. He works 12-16 hr days paying at the pump the register and purchasing goods so YOU have a thriving economy and can enjoy your job security. They pay taxes that support the schools but never get a dime back. They pay cash at the doctor instead of what you all have been told about free medical… they live in fear of discovery so they do not suck off the government for their support contrary to what you are lead to believe. This system is so broken yes, but even more broken is the BS this country’s people are lead to believe. Lying to ICE is only one of the defense mechanisms of survival people use kind of like what most of you use when filing your IRS tax forms…yeah I believe you all put exactly what you make and declare it all…sure you do because we American citizens are all so moral and righteous…Give me a break!!!