Humberta and Oscar Campos entered the United States in 1989. The couple crossed the border between Mexico and Texas. With family in New Jersey, the couple moved to Bridgeton, a small town of just over 25,000 residents.
Things were much different in the 80s and early 90s. Undocumented individuals could lawfully secure social security numbers and, in many states, driver’s licenses or state identifications. New Jersey was one of those states. The reason: an understanding of the economic reliance of the United States on the immigrant workforce—both documented and undocumented. Employer immigration compliance was non-existent.
Things have changed a lot since 1989. Now, only a few states issue identifications to those without an immigration status. And most people without legal status are afraid of walking into a Social Security Office, fearing arrest by ICE because it is a federal building. While lacking an “identity” in the United States, those without identification struggle to survive in the shadows.
Then, there are people like Humberta and Oscar, a couple who had been in living in New Jersey for nearly 30 years, paid tens of thousands of dollars in federal income and social security taxes, bought a home, were given a mortgage because of their lawfully-issued identifications, were issued employment authorization documents by federal immigration authorities, gave birth to and raised three United States Citizen children, paid thousands in New Jersey property taxes each year, have never had an interaction with the criminal justice system, and built a successful, albeit small, Cumberland County landscaping company that employed several US Citizens. The negative: in 1989, the couple crossed the border into the United States.
According to Britain’s The Independent, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) learned of their illegal entry around 10 years ago and the couple would checked in as required, with the agency every three months. While their stay of removal was always granted, last year it was removed and under the threat of arrest, the pair voluntarily agreed to leave last year. They are now banned from returning to the US for a decade.” ICE has confirmed that “neither parent had a criminal record or had broken any laws apart from entering the country illegally.” The New Jersey family is also continuing the fight to bring their parents back to the United States. The possibilities are unknown. Immigration is unknown today.
The couple’s three children, who were in college, were left alone to pay the mortgage, college tuition, utility bills, transportation expenses, and more. Several months later, the three kids were facing foreclosure, delinquent on nearly every bill, with one of the three forced to quit college to make ends meet.
After the story went public, residents of New Jersey stepped up, like always. CNN first reported that one anonymous New Jersey donor has assumed payments for the mortgage and household bills, and purchased plane tickets to Mexico for all three children to visit with their exiled parents. In return, the donor wants the children to worry about attending college, rather than paying a mortgage. The three siblings are living off-campus…yes, in the Bridgeton home where their parents built their American Dream.
This story is not meant to invoke emotions, nor is it for political discourse. Rather, it serves as a wakeup call to New Jersey’s immigrant population. If you, a family member, or a friend have immigration concerns, are undocumented, have a deportation order, are now in deportation proceedings, or are a non-US Citizen charged with a criminal offense, you must seek legal assistance. You must be proactive and learn about the options you have in your path to not only build the American Dream but to stay in the United States so that you may live the American Dream.
If you have any questions about this post or any other immigration matter, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.