GARY T KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Federal immigration officials are in the process of deporting the husband of Maui resident Tamarra Martinez. Martinez and her daughters Jaden, 4, and Niquel, 2, are U.S. citizens. Her husband is a citizen of Mexico. CLICK FOR LARGE
Wife of illegal alien bashes federal sweep
Deportation of her husband will bring hardship, she says
WAILUKU » A U.S. citizen married to an illegal alien being deported and banned from returning to the United States said the nation's immigration laws are "harsh" and "unfair."
Tamarra Martinez said she faces the likelihood of seeking government assistance, such as food stamps, because she and her two daughters are losing the financial support of her husband, Jose Antonio Martinez-Tinoco.
Martinez-Tinoco, 38, was arrested outside his apartment in Honokowai on Friday as part of a federal immigration sweep resulting in the capture of several illegal aliens on the Valley Isle.
He was deported in 1995 from Maui and the latest arrest is a reinstatement of the prior deportation order and requires no court hearing, federal immigration officials said.
Martinez said she has been told that under a 1996 federal law, her husband cannot return to the United States even as a visitor, because he has been deported twice as an illegal alien.
She said that although her husband should receive some punishment such as a fine and possible ban for a couple of years, a permanent ban is unfair.
"They're saying I can never petition him to come here? That's not right. That's harsh. That's very, very harsh," she said. "It's too much. They need to fix it. ... Cases of immigration are not black and white."
She said her husband has a clean record, works as a waiter, pays taxes and takes good care of his two daughters, Jaden, 4, and Niquel, 2.
"Everybody that knows him always says he's such a good dad and how much he loves the girls because he's always with them," she said.
Martinez said that on weekdays she works as a restaurant manager from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., while her husband watches the two children. She said he goes to work at 4 p.m. and she assumes parental duties.
Martinez said it now may be difficult to keep the family in Hawaii.
She said she has joint custody of two sons from a previous marriage and moving to Mexico would allow her to see them only during the summer.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Martinez-Tinoco had his day in court in 1995 and that her department was enforcing the existing court decision.
Kice said that if the family chooses to move to Mexico, the daughters will continue to retain their U.S. citizenship and may re-enter the country.
Kice said in the San Francisco region, including Hawaii, immigration officials have made more than 1,800 arrests. About half of them were fugitives wanted for deportation.
Martinez-Tinoco's attorney, Claire Hanusz, said that before the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, aliens could make the argument in the courts to stay in the United States based on a spouse and children who were U.S. citizens.
Hanusz said the crackdown on illegal immigrants has a "racist element."
"I think it is fear of what's been referred to as the 'browning of America,' " she said.
"It's turning away from the history of this country, which was founded on immigrant labor and initiative. ... There's a total lack of empathy on the part of lawmakers, who only talk about enforcing borders without looking at the reasons people leave the very thing that's familiar to them and take huge risks to come to another place."