As President Trump cracks down on illegal immigration to the United States, one New Jersey congressman said he still remembers the “shock” his family experienced with a near-deportation nearly 20 years ago.
Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) said at a town hall last week that his daughter in-law was nearly deported while serving as an active member of the military at a time when she and Norcross’s son already had two American-born children and lived in Texas.
“My oldest son joined the Army as a young man, out of high school, and was assigned to a base in South Korea. This is almost 19 years ago. And during his deployment he met a young lady, they fell in love, and they got married,” Norcross said by phone.
“Late one night my son called me in Jersey crying,” he recalled. “She was in the chemical response unit, which is by any measure a very dangerous place, because she loves America. So it’s just reflective of where we are today that families not unlike mine are families of immigrants. And I don’t think it’s fair to put the blame for all these ills in our country on immigrants.”
It took nearly four years for his daughter in-law, whom he declined to name, to gain citizenship after immigration agents questioned her legal status. Norcross said his family never found out what sparked the inquiry.
“You can imagine the shock because most people were under the preconceived notion somehow that if you married an American, you became a citizen,” he said. “Or that everybody serving in our armed forces were Americans. Well, they haven’t been. And many of those who served our country have died in that service.”
Norcross said that he understands the need to police the borders but that he favors an easier path to citizenship for immigrants, especially for the children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States. He opposed Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, joining demonstrators at Philadelphia International Airport before a federal court issued a stay on the order.
“It was a quick education for us. She was honorably discharged, was able to avoid deportation. The world was a little different than it is today. And then she began the very long process of becoming a U.S. citizen,” he said. “One of the proudest moments I had, not only as an American but as a father-in-law, was when she was sworn in as an American citizen.”