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Harsh Immigration Law Separates Combat Vet From His Wife And Baby

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Retired Air Force Major Alex Gonzalez is one of hundreds of thousands of military men and women separated from their family because of harsh immigration laws.

“My wife can walk onto any U.S. military base unescorted with a military ID card, but she can’t set foot in the U.S.,” Gonazalez told The Daily Caller News Foundation from Mexico, where he was visiting his family.

Although his wife Yuritzi and their baby girl are military dependents, they’re stuck in Mexico because of an immigration infraction she committed more than 10 years ago. Gonzalez visits when he can, but spends most of his time training U.S. Air Force pilots on a base in Texas. (RELATED: Boston Partners With Feds To Market Citizenship To Illegals)

“I hate being apart from my family,” he told TheDCNF. “It’s bizarre to me they wouldn’t allow my wife to be with her husband, while he’s doing something for this country.”

Gonzales and his daughter in Mexico

Gonzalez is a decorated combat veteran who served in the Air Force from 1989 to 2008, when he retired and contracted with the Defense Department to train Iraqi Air Force pilots.

He met Yuritzi between trips to Iraq in January, 2010, and married her while on leave that August. About two months into their relationship, she told him she had “an immigration problem.”

When Yuritzi was 17, she came to the U.S. illegally to join her parents and five siblings who had left her in Mexico to finish school. Her brother escorted her across the border to Phoenix, where she helped her siblings support their parents in Phoenix, Ariz.

She decided to go back to Mexico when she was 20, because her grandfather was dying, but was apprehended at the border. She told U.S. agents she was a U.S. citizen, apparently not knowing how serious a crime that was. (RELATED: State Department To Fly Central American Children Of Illegals Into US)

She was deported, but came back illegally a second time. She met Gonzalez about a decade later in the States, and after they got married they began a legal effort to secure her legal status and eventually citizenship.

Immigration Customs Enforcement agents stopped short of deporting Yuritzi in 2010 when she showed them her military ID card and they realized her husband was in Iraq, but she was ordered to leave when he got back. So they self-deported the following year to Bolivia and then Colombia, where he worked counter-narcotics missions for the State Department — under the impression she could eventually come back legally.

But in 2013 her visa request was denied and she was banned for life from the U.S.

Later that year, USCIS instituted a Military Parole in Place policy to avoid separation of military and military veterans and their families because of immigration laws. But the policy does not apply to Yuritzi because she lives outside the U.S., where immigration officials have little discretionary power.

She was denied humanitarian parole in June. Asked to reconsider her visa rejection on the grounds that she retracted her false claim to U.S. citizenship in a timely manner, the State Department instructed she and Gonzalez to reapply — a process that costs thousands of dollars and could result in a second rejection.

Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke reintroduced a bill in Congress called the American Families United Act, that could solve their problem if passed, but which is unlikely to move anywhere. (RELATED: USCIS Is Marketing Citizenship To Fight Homegrown Terror)

Gonzalez started an online petition asking his congressman and Secretary of State John Kerry for help, which has more than 3,000 signatures.

“Keeping me and my family 700 miles apart is causing us great hardship and pain,” he writes. “Every day that passes I watch my baby daughter grow up via Skype from my US Air Force Base in Texas rather than having her by my side. I worry about my family’s safety.”

The Obama administration’s refusal to let Yuritzi back in, while at the same time deciding to fly the Central American children of illegal immigrants into the country for the sake of uniting families, and allowing foreign nationals and refugees from countries such as Syria and Somalia legal status adds to his frustration.

“Why are U.S. citizen family members not given number one priority?” Gonzalez said. “Why are Central American children with no connection to the U.S. and all these other [temporary protective status] countries and foreign nationals given priority over our family members?”

“They are not terrorists or a threat to this country. They are my family.”

Gonzalez told TheDCNF he has spent $15,000 in the past five years fighting this battle, not including the cost of constant travel and moving, and the cost to the Air Force. “Every time I have to come down here [to Mexico] for 2 weeks, that’s about 60 pilots I can’t train,” he told TheDCNF. “And it’s a shame that I can’t — I have experience and knowledge to give these young people.”

He plans to serve another 15 years. “That’s what I’ve been ingrained to do,” he told TheDCNF. “And that’s why I’ve never stopped serving through this entire ordeal.”

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Editor’s note: This law is not specific to Mexico, as an earlier headline implied.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.