For three months, Josefina Perez and her family have been making it by a thread.

On March 2, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at the Linda Vista apartment where she lived with her family and arrested and deported Manuel Guzman — her partner of 20 years, the father of her three children, and her family’s main breadwinner.

A deportation order had been issued against Guzman, who had been trying to renew his work permit and other immigration documents, Perez said. ICE arrived at their doorstep to enforce it. I wrote about the deportation and the community’s response in a March story.

Since the deportation, the Perez family’s future has been uncertain. She, too, is in the United States illegally. She was arrested the same day, but was granted a temporary reprieve from deportation so she could take care of her children, ages 18, 9, and 6.

But her day is coming too. She expects to be deported June 22 or June 23, once her two youngest children, U.S.-born citizens, have finished the school year. They’ll go with her.

But until then, she has been trying, as best she can, to make up for the income that Guzman was earning as a maintenance worker at the apartments where they lived. She is still paying rent, feeding her family, and now, trying to scrape together money for the final trip that she and her children will take to rejoin Guzman in central Mexico, where he is waiting for them.

She has asked friends and neighbors for help. They’ve mostly said they can’t.

She has started clearing out her apartment and has set aside the essentials that she’ll take to Mexico with her. She has started selling the rest. She holds yard sales in front of her apartment each weekend.

For weeks, she has been rising each morning and cooking tamales to sell. She calls friends and neighbors to ask if they’ll buy. The ones she doesn’t pre-sell, she loads into a grocery cart that she pushes around Linda Vista after she’s picked her children up from school, asking pedestrians to buy.

“They’re really delicious,” Perez said when I spoke with her by phone yesterday. “Chicken or pork, with green chile or red chile. Do you know anyone who wants to buy tamales?” Her tone was somehow hopeful, pressing and resigned all at once.

She is mostly packed up, she said, and is preparing herself, and her children who have grown up here, for a new life.

I’ll be keeping in touch with and writing about Perez and her family in the coming weeks, as the date of her deportation approaches.


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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