HOUSTON, Texas - The father of a U.S. soldier was deported to Mexico on Monday after living more than two decades in Texas without legal immigration papers.
A previous deportation order put Francisco Javier Solano on the immigration authorities' radar after his eldest son, Israel, who was born in the United States and was in the Armed Forces for more than three years, filed an application to try to regularize his status.
The application was approved in 2015 and the elder Solano received his employment authorization and social security card. However, the letter of approval included a paragraph stating that "a current deportation order is in the beneficiary's file" and it recommended that a copy of the letter be kept for presentation to an immigration judge if necessary.
Israel Solana, 25, told Univision's Houston affiliate, News 45, that he was motivated to file for residency in the hope that his father could finally live and work without concern in the United States, where he made a home and started his own business. However, he did not count on a mistake that his father made in the past that resulted in his regularization petition to be denied, and his eventual deportation.
On May 31, the young soldier, who is married and has a daughter, received a call from his father early in the morning. He thought he was calling on his way to pick him up to go to work at their family floor remodeling and interior decoration business.
Instead, on the other end of the line he heard the father asking him to look after the family, finish their pending jobs, and take care of the business.
"I was still somewhat asleep. I got up and said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'The Migra (slang for U.S. immigration authroities) is outside my house, I love you.' And I hung up the phone," Israel Solano recalled.
His father had traveled to Mexico in 2003 for a family affair and when he tried to re-enter the United States he was arrested at a border control post and immediately expelled.
According to Israel Solano, his father hired someone to get him back across the border in a vehicle. The smuggling vehicle, whcih was carrying several undocumented immigrants, told border agents at the checkpoint that they were all U.S. citizens. But when the officer requested verifying documentation he realized that they were lying.
From that time Francisco Solano's name was registered by immigration authorities as having been deported and lying about being a citizen.
Since his father's arrest, Israel Solano has been unable to sleep. He feels that by "wanting to fix it," as he puts it, he ended up incriminating his father.
"We are who we are because of him, and thwey took that away from one day to the next ... it's not fair. And then I was willing to give my life for this country and that's how they repay me, it is not right," said Israel Solano, trying to hold back tears.
Immigration attorney Raed Gonzalez explained to Univision that in the Solano case, despite having received approval from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), what his petition did was alert immigration authorities and give them an address to go and find the applicant, who had a standing deportation order.
Regularizing status after a deportation
In most cases, an undocumented person who lives in the United States and has an unenforced deportation order cannot get their immigration status regularized in the country, according to Gonzalez, the attorney. "It can only be sorted out if the person leaves the country and processes the application through a consulate," he said.
In the case of Solano, who re-entered the country after being deported and lied about citizenship, "there is nothing that can be done," Gonzalez added.
In some cases, when a son has served in the military he may request that the status of his undocumented parents be legalized, but only when there is no deportation order, he said.
"Obama created 'parole in place', a kind of immigration relief that allows military relatives to enter the U.S. legally to regularize their status.