TIJUANA, Mexico – Mexican activist Emma Sanchez, like many deported mothers forced to leave their children back in the United States, has made a new life in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico.
Sanchez – who met her husband, US citizen Michael Paulsen, in 2000 shortly after arriving in Vista, California – was forbidden from returning to the US for a decade after she was deported 12 years ago for having entered the country illegally.
“It’s very hard to keep the family united,” she said in her house in Tijuana, a few miles from the border, in reference to the couple’s three boys, aged 16, 15 and 12, who still live with their father in the US.
Sanchez – who is also an artist – portrays the hardship endured by her family in her paintings, which reflect the tragedy affecting thousands of immigrant children who grow up without a mother.
“I think there are some very cruel laws,” she told EFE. “They are too strict and do not protect children. Congressmen should do something about that and see that not all cases call for such harsh punishment.”
Her husband used to cross the border every week, but he was compelled to stop after undergoing open-heart surgery a few years ago.
To help their children cope with the situation, Emma wrote them stories – one of which was published – in which she portrays the boys as “princes who live in another country.”
Among the many keepsakes decorating her home, she pointed to a photograph taken during her Mexican wedding in 2015, in which the couple married in a symbolic ceremony that her family organized for them at the border in the suburb of Playas de Tijuana.
“It was a way to show that love has no borders and bring to the attention of the authorities the fact that the wall separates families, but not feelings,” said Sanchez, who is in the middle of a process that – she hopes – may allow her to return legally to the US.