Nube Shirley Pullola dreams of going to college one day and getting a degree in education. As an undocumented immigrant, she wants to do it for herself and her four children of 8, 6, 4 and 2 years old, so in the future they can follow her example.
But now that her husband Carlos Alvarez, also an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, is in custody at an immigration detention facility in Seattle and facing deportation, her dream is vanishing.
If Alvarez is deported to Ecuador, Pullola – also from Ecuador – has to decide if she goes back there with her children – all of them US citizens – or stay here so they get better educational opportunities in the future.
On April 22, Alvarez was returning to New York from a visit to a friend in Seattle, Washington. He was arrested at the airport when Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) officers asked for his documents at the boarding gate.
“They asked him for his passport,” Pullola said. “When they saw the Ecuadorian passport, they asked him for his visa or permanent residence. He didn’t have anything to show and was sent to an immigration facility.”
Pullola, who has been in this country for 11 years, also said her husband didn’t think it was risky to fly to Washington State even though he was undocumented.
Now she is taking care of their children for herself at their home in Queens, and trying to help her husband to avoid deportation with the help of Make the Road New York, a community-based organization. “We don’t have money to pay for his $10,000 bond. Neither do we have money to pay the $4,000 that an immigration lawyer asked for taking his case.”
Pullola says that she had to tell their children that her father is detained after they were persistently asking were he was. “The worst time of the day is at bedtime when we wait for him to call. My only hope is that he could call collect and say good night to them,” she said.
Alvarez has been living and working in the United States for 17 years, Pullola says. He worked for a demolition company for several years, including on the Ground Zero cleanup.
Five years later, he started showing signs of respiratory illness and other health problems such as heartburn, sleep apnea, depression and nervous breakdowns. He was working as a cab driver when he went to visit the friend in Seattle and was arrested.
“He is currently in medical treatment and seeing a therapist twice a month,” Pullola said. “I don’t know how long he’s going to be detained and without seeing his doctors. His mental health is getting worse.”
Since he didn’t have a contract signed with the cab company, he is not entitled to any benefits. Pullola cannot get a job because she doesn’t have a working permit.
“I’m confused and I don’t know what to do,” Pullola said. “I only think of how to help my husband and how to take care of the children, both things at the same time.”