JEFFERSON CITY — With tears in her eyes, Marina Gonzalez watched her 19-year-old daughter, Marie Gonzalez, calmly try to explain to the press why she would be able to stay in the United States while her parents are deported to Costa Rica.
It was something not easily explained.
Marie Gonzalez received a phone call from her lawyer on Friday giving her the “bittersweet” news that she would be allowed to stay in the United States for another year.
“At first when I heard, I thought it was for the whole family,” Marie Gonzalez said, “but then I really listened to what they were saying. They were saying, ‘We’ll have you for a year,’ but what about my family?”
The 19-year-old fought for three years for her family to be able to remain in the United States, and Friday the Department of Homeland Security granted half her request.
Her parents, Marvin and Marina Gonzalez, are still required to leave the country by Tuesday, giving the family precious little time together before their plane departs at 2:20 p.m.
“I know that someone can do something about this and they haven’t,” Marie Gonzalez said.
Marie Gonzalez, right, holds hands with her mother, Marina, at a press conference Saturday in Jefferson City. Gonzalez’s parents will be deported to Costa Rica on Tuesday.
Less than 48 hours before Marvin and Marina Gonzalez are deported, the family will be featured on the lead float in Jefferson City’s Salute to America parade on Sunday. This year’s theme is “Proud to be an American.”
After Marie Gonzalez’s parents leave Tuesday, it could be six years before she sees them again.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which is stalled in the United States Senate, would allow illegal immigrants who graduate from high school to apply for citizenship. However, Marie Gonzalez would not be allowed to leave the United States during the five-year DREAM process. If the legislation doesn’t pass, she will face deportation in July 2006.
Marie Gonzalez’s parents have a 10-year-ban, during which they are not allowed back in the United States
Marie Gonzalez, who graduated as an honor student from Helias High School in 2004, said she is staying in the United States to attend college, although she isn’t certain where she will stay or which school she will attend.
“We’ll deal with that next week,” she said, adding that right now all she wants to do is enjoy time with her parents, a difficult task in light of the national media attention.
While her daughter faces uncertainty in the United States, Marina Gonzalez is also worried about her and her husband’s future in Costa Rica. Work will be difficult to find, and so will housing.
“It’s going to be very hard to start again from zero,” she said.
They plan to stay with Marina Gonzalez’s parents for a few days in Heredia, but they will have to move to San Jose to find work.
The Gonzalezes immigrated to Los Angeles in November 1991 on short-term visas.
Marie Gonzalez was 5 years old at the time. Her parents said they were told by attorneys that despite their expired visas, if they lived in the United States for seven years, they could apply for permanent residency.
For a time the Gonzalezes owned a restaurant in Jefferson City, and Marvin Gonzalez worked as a courier in former Gov. Bob Holden’s office. Gonzalez was fired in 2002 when his illegal status became public, and shortly after federal authorities began the deportation process.
Marie Gonzalez has made appeals to Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., to introduce a private bill that would allow her family to stay in the United States However, it was Sen. Dick Durban, D-Ill., who hand delivered a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of Marie Gonzalez shortly before they granted her the extension.
The Gonzalez family said they are still hoping that intervention will take place on Tuesday. They encourage Missourians to contact their senators.
“This is my country and I am grateful for the opportunity,” Marie Gonzalez said. However, she also said that the system has failed her family.
Marie Gonzalez said she aspires to be an attorney, and she jokingly added maybe even in immigration law.
“I think I have a lot to bring to the table,” she said, making everyone in the room laugh for the first time during the interview.
“I am very proud of Marie,” Marina Gonzalez said. “She can do it. She is a good example of why this country needs reform.”