0706WIFEAUDLinda Gonzalez talks about how their separation has been difficult for her and her husband.
With a voice that resonates both defiant and despondent, Linda Gonzalez will tell you what’s troubling her. Her husband, Innencinco, was flown to Mexico by the United States government after five years of calling America home.
And caught in a bureaucratic web of immigration policy, there is no sure way to know when or if Innencinco could come back to America legally. At best, he could return in a year. At worst, it could be more than a decade before he is allowed to re-enter the country.
Gonzalez said she is not afraid to speak up and criticize Hall County for the way they treated her husband and other Latinos.
"I’m not afraid to say what I think. What more can they do to me? They’ve taken my husband away from me. They’ve taken him away, they’ve taken what income I had. They’ve taken my life away from me ... And there’s nothing I can do." Gonzalez said. "I just wish there was some way I could bring my husband home."
Fishing for trouble
In April, The Hall County Sheriff’s Office began to enforce the 287(g) initiative, a local-federal partnership which enables local law enforcement to recommend any undocumented residents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
Just days after the sheriff’s office began enforcing 287(g), Innencinco Gonzalez and three of his friends were fishing on Lake Lanier when a Department of Natural Resources employee approached the men and asked if they had fishing licences. The men were not legal residents of the United States, and when they could produce neither a fishing license nor identification, they were taken to the Hall County Jail.
"If I knew that you could get a fishing license with your consular card, we would have done that a long time ago," Linda Gonzalez said.
Innencinco Gonzalez stayed in jail for about two weeks before he was turned over to immigration. Linda Gonzalez said from Hall County, her husband was transferred to Lumpkin City and then flown to Mexico. He has been in Mexico for about a month now.
Innencinco Gonzalez is now living with his parents in the tiny impoverished town in Mexico where he grew up.
He works 12 hours a day, seven days a week pouring concrete. And though Linda Gonzalez is struggling financially without her husband’s income, he no longer makes enough money to send home to support her. "He’s working for 100 pesos a day — that’s $10 a day," Gonzalez said.
She said they speak whenever they can over the phone, but the phone cards get expensive and Innencinco cannot always get good reception.
"I haven’t touched my husband since April 1," Gonzalez said.
Life after deportation
Linda Gonzalez is on disability and cannot work because of injuries she sustained in a car accident. Innencinco Gonzalez was supporting his wife with the income from his job at a construction company. Now that her husband is back in Mexico, Gonzalez is having a hard time making ends meet.
"It’s very stressful for me...I have no money right now. I have nothing," she said.
Gonzalez has gotten help from her husband’s boss to pay for an attorney, who helped her file special needs forms that could get him back into the country.
Because he was here illegally for five years, it is likely that Innencinco Gonzalez could be barred from entering the country legally for 10 years. And if he tries to re-enter the country illegally, he would face jail time if caught.
David Kennedy, a local immigration lawyer, said it is very difficult for Mexicans to enter the country legally. Mexico, along with China, the Philippines and India, have a much higher demand for visas than supply of visas allotted to those countries, so the wait to enter the United States legally can reach 20 years in some cases.
"The biggest misconception is that there are paths for most people to gain legal status," Kennedy said.
But to even get on the waiting list for a visa, one has to have a family member or employer to petition for them, and the complicated paperwork is very expensive.
Many people think that marrying an American citizen will automatically get you a green card, but that is not the case.
There is a breakdown in which family members get priority in the immigration system. According to the Visa Bulletin, the spouses and children of permanent residents have second preference to unmarried children of citizens. People from Mexico granted visas this month who fall under the second preference filed their papers as early as 1992.
Gonzalez said she had the paperwork and intended to get her husband here legally, but never had the money. At $500 a piece, the seven forms they needed to complete seemed out of reach.
How they met
Linda and Innencinco came to Gainesville around the same time, though they came from very different places.
It took Innencinco Gonzalez three days to travel over the border by foot. Linda Gonzalez said her husband had friends who were in Gainesville, and took buses across the country to get here.
Linda Gonzalez was born in Bellville, Ill. She was a nurse and lived in a few different states including Oregon and South Carolina before settling in Georgia.
Soon after coming to town, Linda Gonzalez and a friend went out dancing and she met her future husband while out at a club. She barely spoke Spanish and he barely spoke English, but "there was an attraction," she said.
They dated for six months, and got married in 2003.
They had a happy life, she said. They enjoyed barbecues with friends and family, and Innencinco would play soccer on the weekends.
Now, Gonzalez said, they are both depressed.
"He’s very upset" Gonzalez said. "When I talk to him at night he cries. When you’re together for five years and all the sudden they pick you up and they put you in jail and you can’t even see each other or talk to each other. It’s really sad and it’s hard."
Profiling change denied
Gonzalez said she thinks Hall County law enforcement is unfairly targeting the Latino community.
While she agrees criminals should not be allowed to stay in the country, she said people with minor offenses like her husband’s should be given more leniency.
"How could our country be so bitter against one race of people?" She said. "I’m ashamed of my own people."
Gonzalez said she has seen roadblocks set up near fields where many Latinos play soccer. She believes this is an effort to catch undocumented immigrants driving without a license.
"They know where they play. They’re targeting certain places, I’ve seen it myself," Gonzalez said. "They don’t have to go out of their way and stop people for no reason. There’s got to be a line."
Maj. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said any traffic safety check has to be approved by a supervisor.
"We’ve not had any road checks near the soccer fields or near the poultry plants," Strickland said. "We have not used road checks to target illegal immigrants."
Kennedy, Gonzalez’s attorney, said he believes the 287(g) initiative "has done nothing to make Hall County safer" because is targets nonviolent offenses.
"It’s very successfully terrorizing the Hispanic community," Kennedy said. "I’m not suggesting Sheriff Cronic is racist, but it opens the door for abuse."
Gonzalez said what happens to Innencinco is all up to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With the papers she filed claiming special needs, he could be able to come back legally. But how long it will take for the paperwork to go through is uncertain.
"It’s all up in the air. I can’t even give you an answer. Six months? A year? Is this even possible?" She said. "My lawyer doesn’t even know."