'Bring Us Home,' Say 'Exiled' American Families 

Advocates launch online petition at change.org.

Becca Candia's mosaic was crafted from photographs of 'exiled' families from across the globe.

Becca Candia

Becca Candia's mosaic was crafted from photographs of 'exiled' families from across the globe.

UPDATE: Feb. 17, 2013

'Exiled' American Families Turn to Gang of Eight

American families who are living in what they call "exile" or separated by immigration laws, are targeting the so-called "gang of eight"—a bipartisan group of U.S. senators working on immigration reform—to advance their cause.

"Even though I'm separated from my homeland, I am blessed to live with my husband and daughter," said Nicole Salgado, organizer of Action for Family Unity. "But there are women I am collaborating with who cannot be with their loved ones today because of current immigration law."

In the current issue of Boise Weekly, we talk to Salgado from her home-away-from-home in Queretaro, Mexico, where her family has lived since their departure from the United States seven years ago.

Salgado's organization, which she says includes families from across the globe, has taken to change.org to petition Barack Obama and Congress to "bring home American families in exile." As of Monday (Feb. 17), the petition had secured more than 1,000 signatures.

In particular, Action for Family Unity is reaching out the "gang of eight," which includes Republican Sens. Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Marco Rubio, along with Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet, Dick Durbin, Robet Menendez and Charles Schumer.

ORIGINAL STORY: Feb. 13, 2013

Somewhere between her collegiate activism at Cornell University and her work as a biologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, Nicole Salgado fell in love.

"I met my husband in 2001," Salgado said with a laugh. "He had just come to the States from Mexico. I fell for him pretty fast; he's an amazing guy."

But her laughter turned to tears she as described the plight of her family--which now includes a 2-year-old daughter--living in Queretaro, Mexico, where they have lived since their voluntary departure from the United States seven years ago.

"It's really upsetting, so personal," she said.

When she reached out to other wives and mothers, most of them U.S. citizens who are, they say, in exile because of harsh immigration laws, Salgado began putting faces to the growing dilemma.

"We began receiving pictures of families together, families apart," she said.

The photos were crafted into a heart-shaped mosaic by Becca Candia, who says she's in exile with her own family in La Paz, Bolivia.

"Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and certainly all over the United States," said Salgado. "These people could be your neighbor."

Salgado, Candia and the thousands more like them--all U.S. citizens--want to come home but can't, or won't, without their husbands, who are barred from the United States after being deported or otherwise excluded.

"If you think that when U.S. citizens marry immigrants, they're automatically granted green cards, you're wrong," said Salgado. "Some of the new immigration proposals either want to make the laws more draconian or they don't include people like our families."

Salgado is co-author of Amour Amor and Exile with journalist and ex-Boise Weekly News Editor Nathaniel Hoffman. The forthcoming book considers the legal and geographic exile that potentially hundreds of thousands of American families now face.

While Salgado anxiously awaits the book's printing, she has taken to change.org to petition President Barack Obama and Congress to "bring home American families in exile."

"We received 600 signatures in the first 60 hours," she said. "Every time someone signs and enters their zip code, a copy is forwarded to their congressional representative."

Salgado said the effort has been "scary and frustrating" at times, but the message is simple:

"Bring us home," she said from her home away from home in the central Mexican highlands.

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