Family Torn Apart

March 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Two south valley teens are fighting to get their parents back after they were deported by immigration and customs enforcement.Adding to their frustration is a large amount of money their parents paid -- for what turned out to be bad legal advice.

An 18 year old Dinuba girl has set aside her dream of graduating from high school and is now caring for her younger brother.

Family members say her parents paid more than $30,000 to a man who claimed to be an immigration attorney.

18 year old Stephanie Grajeda wants her parents back. Her parents, Gerardo and Angelica, were deported back in December, leaving her alone to care for her 13 year old brother, Christopher as well as her own nine month old daughter.

"Ii was devastated. I had to leave school. I'm planning on going back but I had to drop out right now because it's just every day you know phones for different things, meetings I have go to," says Stephanie.

The Grajeda's are separated but bought their home in Dinuba together 8 years ago.

Gerardo's fiancé says she was shocked when the Grajeda's were deported. Everyone thought they were on their way to citizenship, with the help of an attorney.

Raquel Rodriguez, Gerardo's fiancé, says "They kept telling them everything was looking good. But then this guy turns out to not even be a lawyer."

Family members say the Grajeda's gave that man thousands of dollars over the years mostly paid directly to his checking account.

They say the man told the Grajeda's they weren't required to attend a scheduled deportation hearing, but just days after that missed hearing they were deported.

The family has turned to Lulac a Hispanic advocacy group for help hoping the Grajeda's will get another shot with immigration officials.

Robert Cervantes, Lulac, says "It's not right for ICE or immigration to do things like that; separating families. These are good working families."

Stephanie says the bills are stacking up and she had to turn to welfare for help buying food. She's hoping to get her parents back before all is lost.

"I just want my parents to come back. I wouldn't want to lose the house they put so much work into all these years," she says.

An immigration and customs enforcement spokesperson was unable to comment on the Grajeda's case but in the past, the agency has defended separating families by saying it's a chance illegal immigrants take when they enter the country illegally and then decide to have children here.


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