My name is Amber Henderson. I was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina and have resided in the state of Georgia for 28 years. I met my fiancé Juan Carlos on February 21, 2007. I had been invited to lunch by a friend and he happened to be working in a subdivision nearby and came in to the restaurant we were at to have lunch with the crew he was working with. At that time he was doing construction work. My friend noticed me smiling across the room and wondered what I was looking at to not be interested in eating my lunch. I was fixed on those big brown eyes and winning smile. She teased me as she got up to go to the restroom and said he better not be in my seat when I come back, as soon as she walked away he came over and sat down in her seat. He asked for my name and said he would like to get to know me and we exchanged phone numbers. We have been like magnets ever since.
I have two boys from a previous marriage that are ages 14 and 8. Their father has never been in their lives so to them he was all they could ask for in a father. I knew nothing about immigration or what it meant to be in this country undocumented. Juan Carlos is a hard working man and always provided for me and the boys. He was always working doing something to provide even when construction slowed down. I and my boys felt so blessed to finally feel complete. Juan Carlos just stepped right into our lives and took the role of a mate for me and father to my boys no questions asked. It was like he’d been there all along in our lives. He knew what to do and when to do it. My friends would tease me because he helped me around the house and took care of the boys when they were sick, they wondered what I did to get him to be such a help to me. It takes a one of a kind man to meet a woman who can no longer have other children and be a father to two boys that aren’t biologically his. I thank the Lord for him every day. He always enjoyed the baseball games and soccer games of our 8 yr. old and the band concerts of our oldest. On December 31st of 2011 he was stopped on his way home from work in a routine traffic stop and arrested for driving while unlicensed. I was afraid because I didn’t know what would follow after this arrest. After this life kind of just went on. If only I had known what would follow.
On July 31st, 2012 we were awakened by a knock at the door around 8:30 in the morning. It is true that when tragedy strikes you remember every harrowing detail. I was asleep on the sofa with our 8 yr. old and the 14 yr. old answered the door. I asked him who it was and he said it’s the police mom. I went to the door to find two officers there who told me they were sorry to bother me but they were probation officers looking for a man. They proceeded to show me a picture of someone I’d never laid eyes on. I told them I had no idea who that was. I was asked all kinds of questions if I was renting a room out to someone or knew of the man’s whereabouts. I reassured them I had no idea who the man was. Juan Carlos had gotten up in the meantime and joined me at the door. They proceeded to show him the photo and ask him the same questions. He even tried to help them figure out who the man was. They asked him if they could come in since it was raining and he let them. Once inside our home they asked for ID from the both of us to make a report to their boss that they had in fact been to the address stated and the man in the picture didn’t reside at the address listed. Once we showed them our ID’s they dropped a bomb on us. They stated that the truth was they weren’t probation officers but immigration officers (ICE) and were there to detain Juan Carlos. I froze in my steps and didn’t know what to say and Juan Carlos looked at me with defeat in his eyes. My children were screaming and crying please don’t take my Papi he’s a good man what are we supposed to do without our Papi mama.
Juan Carlos changed his clothes while one officer watched and the other stood guard at the end of the hallway like he was a hardened criminal. He gave me what money he money he had and asked if he could please use the restroom before they go since he had just gotten out of bed. The response was no we aren’t going far you can wait. I followed him to the door and asked if we could have a moment. He hugged and kissed me and the boys and told us not to worry everything was going to be okay. He always had a way of reassuring us when things were tough. This was unfathomable I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Our youngest son went out the back door screaming for them to please let his Papi go that he didn’t like the police and hated them for taking him away.
When Juan Carlos was deported back to El Salvador I learned that it was his second trip to the United States so for that reason he was barred for twenty years. He is a good man and only came here to look for a better life for himself as El Salvador has little to no job opportunity and minimum wage there is $150.00 a month. I am a U.S. citizen as are my children. I don’t understand how families can be separated and the government not expect there to be suffering or hardship. Hardship comes in many ways, sleepless nights, struggling to make ends meet, not knowing if the gas in the car will make it until the next paycheck, who will pick up the kids now, who will cheer them on? How will we go on with life without Papi? I’m asking that I be treated as well as everybody else in comprehensive immigration reform. I know there are consequences when laws are broken but to expect a man to live 3, 5, 10, 20 or a lifetime away from there family is ludicrous. The only choice me and my children have been given is to live in exile with him in El Salvador.