Community members held a vigil Saturday morning at the De La Guerra Plaza in Santa Barbara to honor Juana Flores, the woman attorneys and local leaders say was wrongfully deported from Goleta two years ago.
Flores's grandchildren and other community members in attendance held up signs that read "How long do I have to wait to hug her again?" and "We can't wait any longer," urging the Department of Homeland Security to bring Flores back to the United States.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo, and retired Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa spoke at the event, providing updates on immigration legislation in the House of Representatives.
In 2019, federal officials deported Flores, a 57-year-old grandmother who had lived in Goleta for 30 years, to Mexico under the Trump administration's immigration policies.
According to Kraig Rice, the attorney representing Flores, she left behind 18 grandchildren, a son in the U.S. military, as well as a son with disabilities and a husband with medical problem. Both her son with disabilities and her husband were under Flores's care prior to her deportation.
In December 2020, the Flores family asked former President Trump to grant Flores clemency after nearly two years of legal appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Flores's case reached Congress in 2019, which led to the introduction of the "Protect Patriot Parents Act" by Carbajal. Her application for humanitarian parole is currently pending before federal officials, according to Flores's attorney.
Juana entered the U.S. from Mexico without a visa in 1988, two years after then-President Ronald Reagan signed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act granting status to immigrants who came to the country illegally, said Rice.
Between 1988 and 2019, Flores married and lived in California, where she and her husband — a permanent resident since 2009 and U.S. citizen since 2015 — bought a home and raised a family, said officials.