Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

The Devastating Impacts of Forced Return: One Couple’s Story



Time to read

3 Minutes

In this post, a couple separated through forced return in the United States share their experiences of deportation and its far-reaching consequences. The stories, submitted by email, have been edited for language and to ensure anonymity. The names are pseudonyms.


My husband, Frederico, came to the United States in 1972. His father had migrated years before and worked hard to bring his wife and three children to America to join him. My husband was the youngest of the three children. Frederico was my life partner for 32 years but my husband for eight years. We were home owners and tax payers. I’m Native American from a federally recognized Indian tribe. I know nothing about immigration or immigration law. On 24 October 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers came to my home while my husband was working in the yard and informed me that Frederico was here working illegally. Not knowing any better, I ran into the house and came back with his passport and green card; after all, my husband was a permanent resident for 41 years. Officers took my husband, telling me that he’d be released in a couple of hours. Yet, Frederico was detained and then deported back to Cape Verde―a place he doesn’t remember, with a language he doesn’t speak, and somewhere he has no family at all. This is because his parents and grandparents are all buried here in the US. Frederico and I have four children and nine grandchildren who miss him so much because he was so abruptly ripped from us with no warning. It’s been three and a half years now and my husband still hasn’t found employment in Cape Verde. I work hard to try to support him and pay our bills here while taking care of him there. I love and miss my husband. I want the US government to do more to reunite legal immigrants back with their families. I don’t understand how my husband can be legally married with a family, having been here legally to work and pay taxes, and after 41 years not be considered a citizen. After 32 years of our life together, I’m middle age and all alone and so is Frederico. These should be our golden years together. I don’t think the government knows the devastation it causes by separating families.


Hi, my name is Frederico. I immigrated to the US in 1972 with my entire family at the age of eight. My parents and grandparents are all buried in the US. I was a 41-year legally documented permanent resident, who was raised enjoying the rich history, culture, and traditions America offered me. In July 2007, I married my companion of 31 years, Sandra, a Native American, in a civil ceremony ordained by a Justice of the Peace. In July 2010, I went to the Cape Verdean American Community Center to inquire about getting a new Portuguese passport as mine had expired 1984. I paid a $50.00 fee and was issued a Cape Verdean passport that same month instead. It seemed odd because all my legal documents are Portuguese, not Cape Verdean. In August 2010, my wife and I embarked on a seven-day cruise for our honeymoon. While departing the ship at the port of Miami, Florida, I was held up as a US customs officer examined my passport with suspicion. I received a new permanent resident card with an expiration date in 2021, yet on 24 October 2011, ICE officers apprehended me while I was working on my home. They claimed that I was illegal and asked my wife for the passport which she handed over with my permanent card. In January 2012, I was issued a deportation order. Eighteen days later, on 21 February 2012, I was put on a plane. Without thinking, my wife took the plane with me and we were dropped off in Praia, the capital city of Cape Verde, a place I’d never seen in my life. I was appalled to learn I was issued a fraudulent Cape Verdean passport. Through this whole ordeal, I haven’t been represented by an attorney. I was born in a Portuguese colony as a Portuguese national; my birth certificate is Portuguese. I have been taken away from my wife, family, and home in the US.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

Border Criminologies. (2015) The Devastating Impacts of Forced Return: One Couple’s Story. Available at: http://bordercriminologies.law.ox.ac.uk/impacts-of-forced-return/ (Accessed [date]).

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