Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Veteran fights mother's deportation to Mexico (9News.com)

Veteran fights mother's deportation to Mexico
10:32 PM, May 30, 2011

Written by Nadia Gedeon, Will Ripley

DENVER - An Iraq war veteran is fighting a new battle but this time it's against his own country.

His mother was deported after more than two decades of legal residency in the United States. This is just one of thousands of immigration cases in Denver, which ranks among the top ten overloaded immigration courts in the country, according to the Denver Post.

Lance Corporal Miguel Valenzuela served four years in the United States Marines and a tour of duty in Iraq.

"It was a great honor to be able to say I served my country," Valenzuela said. "I feel like I got out of the Marine Corps just to turn around and face this."

Lance corporal Miguel Valenzuela is now fighting a legal battle against the United States immigration policy which called for his mother's deportation in April, after what he calls more than two decades of legal residency in this county.

"It really is like a slap in the face," Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela's mother, Celia Novak, has called the US home for 25 years.

"I think I've been a good asset to the United States of America," she said in a telephone interview from Juarez, Mexico.

A registered nurse, Novak says her work visa allowed her to live here "for many years." She had children, married an American man, and planned to become a US citizen. Those plans fell apart when the marriage ended and her work visa expired.

"It was devastating," Novak said. "It was terrible news."

A letter in March from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement changed everything. On April 4th, Novak was deported from Greeley, CO to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico - a border city 690 miles from the place she called home for nearly half her life.

"In the month and a half that my Mom has been where she's at now, she's seen way more messed up stuff than I saw that that whole time, seven months in Iraq," Valenzuela said.

Cartel violence is Novak's reality. Ciudad Juarez is Mexico's most violent city, according to government statistics which show more than 9,000 people have died in drug cartel violence in Juarez since 2008. Novak witnessed a murder on Mother's day.

"I'm always afraid for my life," she said.

Novak's family has hired an immigration lawyer, but her appeal could take months or even years. The Denver Post reports there are 7,200 pending immigration cases in Denver, with an average wait of 501 days for a hearing. Her lawyer is hoping to take the case to federal court.

"My children need me, my family needs me," Novak said.

Valenzuela thinks his mother should be allowed back in the country he fought for in the Marines.

"People like her are exactly what this country needs," Valenzuela said. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have done the things that I did."

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