CATHEDRAL CITY (CBSLA.com) — For the past 13 years, Riverside resident Alex Gutierrez has been living and working in the United States illegally.
But when he and his wife, Esmeralda Reyes, found out they would be expecting a child, Gutierrez wanted to change the way they lived and stop breaking the law.
The 25-year-old truck factory worker had been married to Reyes, who’s a U.S. citizen, for three years but still needed to apply for legal residency.
“He wanted a better life for us,” Reyes said.
Gutierrez went back to Mexico after he applied with U.S. officials, and was accepted for an Unlawful Presence Waiver, which limits the time families are separated while a spouse who is here illegally gets their immigrant visa so they can return to the U.S. legally.
“When you’re illegal you don’t have opportunities. You’re just scared you’re going to be in a checkpoint, they’re going to get you, they’re going to send you back,” Reyes said.
When Gutierrez got down to Juarez an immigration officer told him he couldn’t return to the U.S. and he was denied legal residency for 10 years, because he reportedly misrepresented himself when he came to the U.S. all those years ago.
“When he told me the news I almost lost my baby. I started feeling contractions and she wasn’t due yet,” Reyes said.
It’s been a month since Gutierrez left and Reyes is days away from delivering their baby. Her husband is the family’s sole provider and she says she can’t pay the rent. In the meantime, she’s staying with relatives in the Coachella Valley.
The couple has paid a paralegal thousands of dollars to help them, but they recently haven’t been of much help. She says they can’t afford an attorney, leaving her with little hope for her family’s future.