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October 10 Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jennifer Diaz (left) hugs her mother and father at Portland International Airport on Oct. 10, 2006. Her mother and her older brother and sister were deported to Guatemala after their application for political asylum was denied. Jennifer is an American citizen because she was born here. Her father will remain in the country pending the appeal of his bid for asylum.

Luis Diaz fled to the United States in 1991 after leading a union uprising in Guatemala. His wife, Irma, and children Luis Jr. and Monica followed two years later. They all applied for political asylum (giving Luis a work permit), which was denied and subsequently appealed. Meanwhile, the couple had another child—Jennifer—and all of their children grew up thinking that the United States was their home.

The last of Irma, Luis Jr., and Monica's appeals was denied in September, and they were supposed to leave the country then. They were granted an extra month due to some ticketing problems. They had to be out of the country by midnight on Oct. 10. They caught a flight to Mexico that left at 11:59 p.m.

Jennifer Diaz interprets for her mother, Irma, as reporters interview her at Portland International Airport on Oct. 10, 2006, just hours before Irma and two of her three children were deported to Guatemala.

Thousands of illegal immigrants are deported from the United States every year. I don't know why this particular family attracted so much media attention. Perhaps it was because they had been in the United States for so long. Perhaps it was because the whole family was here, but only some had to leave. Perhaps it was because they came as refugees, not simply to work. Or perhaps it was because they were simply willing to talk to the media and let the media tell their story. I have to say that I was very impressed with the family's patience with the media, who surrounded them at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. In particular, the dignity with which Luis conducted himself during the whole evening was remarkable.

Among other sources, you can find news coverage of this story from the Beaverton Valley Times, The Oregonian (who sent reporters down to Guatemala with the family), KATU News, KOIN News, and el Centinela, if you can read Spanish. That one has another of my pictures with it.