Trump voter 'ashamed' to be American after daughter-in-law is deported

Shirley Stegall thought the US would deport gang members and criminals when US president made election promises

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 24 July 2018 16:02 BST
Donald Trump signs order overturning family separation policy

A Donald Trump voter said she was “ashamed” to be an American after her daughter-in-law was deported following his administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Shirley Stegall's daughter Letty, crossed illegally from Mexico to the US in 1999 at the age of 21 and settled in Kansas City, Missouri. Starting out waiting tables, she eventually worked her way up to manage a bar.

She got married and had her daughter Jennifer, now 17, but later divorced. Then she fell in love with Shirley's son Steve. The pair were married and went on to buy a home together.

Jennifer Tadeo-Uscanga, 17, walks down a staircase lined with family photos at the Kansas City, Missouri (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Meanwhile back in Mexico, Letty's parents were forced to abandon their home and business as a drug cartel moved into the area around Cosamaloapan where she grew up.

As she set off to the gym one February morning, three cars containing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents leapt out and arrested her. Six years beforehand she had been charged misdemeanor drunken driving which had made authorities aware that she was in the US illegally. Stegall spent a month in jail and her case went into the immigration system.

Four days after her February arrest, Letty won a stay of deportation in court pending a hearing. But ICE already had her shackled aboard a flight to Brownsville, Texas, where she was directed to cross by foot back into Mexico. Her family, relieved by the victory in court, were unaware she was gone.She joined her family in Boca del Rio, a small city in the Gulf of Mexico.

The only regular she with her husband and 17-year-old daughter is online.

Jennifer Tadeo-Uscanga, 17, and her stepdad, Steve Stegall, stand outside their house in Kansas City, Missouri. Jennifer’s mother Letty Stegal lived in the United States for 20 years, but was deported back to Mexico in March. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Her situation has appalled her mother-in-law Shirley, who said she voted for Mr Trump because she liked his promise to bring jobs back to the US and the vow to make trade with China fairer.

She also supported him when he said criminal immigrants would be deported, althought they did not consider her daughter-in-law to be one, even if she came to the country illegally.

“I’ve always been proud to be an American,” Shirley said. “But now I’m ashamed.”

An estimated 8 million to 9 million Americans live with at least one relative who is in the country illegally and the thousands of deportations that have taken place under Mr Trump's presidency have affected citizens and those living in the country legally.

During his presidential election campaign Mr Trump vowed in 2016 to remove “bad hombres”, in what some voters interpreted to mean removals would be directed at gang members and seasoned criminals.

But arrests of migrants with minor convictions such as driving under the influence outnumber those of immigrants previously convicted for more egregious crimes.

Immigration and Customs enforcement arrested 59,985 people for driving under the influence (DUI) in the year to September 2017, while only arresting 6,553 in 2017 for homicide, sexual assault or kidnapping collectively. Arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions have increased significantly since Mr Trump took office.

Letty's deportation means she could be barred from entering the US for a decade. She hopes paperwork that cites her marriage to a US citizen will be approved within two years, but the process can be protracted.

In the meantime, technology allows her to keep in contact with her husband and daughter.

“She’s not dead,” said Jennifer of her mother. “But she’s not here.”

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