Gidget Candia Romero is feeling the pain, and not just because she's been having contractions since Monday, April 17, in anticipation of the birth to her fifth child at any moment this week.
The “other” pain began on Feb. 2. On that day her husband, Juan Pedro Romero Cruz, was headed to Tacoma Municipal Court in the state of Washington to pay an old traffic ticket for driving without insurance and without registration.
But upon exiting the courthouse, Gidget said her husband was apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who were waiting for him outside.
How that happened is something she doesn’t know.
“We knew the (traffic) tickets were old. I think someone inside the courthouse notified ICE. It’s the only answer,” she says.
From North Hills to Tacoma
It was an unexpected turn of events for a family transplanted from the San Fernando Valley to Washington.
Juan Pedro came to the United States from Mexico at age 15, and lived in North Hills. The couple have known each other since then. They both lived in the same apartment building, and attended Monroe High School.
Juan Pedro didn’t graduate. He was pulled out of school his senior year to financially help his family. He works in construction, painting and flooring.
Since arriving from Mexico, Juan Pedro has never returned to his native country. According to his wife, he’s always led a straight life, working hard and providing for her and their children. She said he’s never been in trouble with the law.
Gidget has three kids from a previous relationship: Carina, 11; Ricky, 8 and Juan Emilio, 8. They have a daughter Mia, 2, and another on the way. Gidget said Juan Pedro has been a devoted father to all her children, caring and providing for them despite the hardships.
Carina suffers from epilepsy seizures and used to have more episodes in extreme hot weather. This, and the promise of better wages, led them to move to Washington a couple of years ago.
“We left California in 2015. I was going back and forth for a while because I couldn’t get used to the weather,” she said.
But “he gets paid better here than in California,” Gidget said, and they didn’t want to be apart. Since last year, Washington has been their permanent home.
Things were going well for them until Juan Pablo was detained by immigration in February. Since then, her world has turned upside down.
“I'm here by myself. He’s the one who pays for everything,” Gidget says.
“I’ve been asking for help from all organizations, getting loans from friends and family. But sooner or later, I’m going to be homeless.”
A lack of money has been a problem all along.
They’ve been together since 2012, and married in 2015. Gidget is a US citizen and could have tried to arrange papers for Juan Pedro, but they never had enough funds to apply.
“We got the application but we never submitted it,” she admits.
He also could have applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but he never did it either.
Now he's facing deportation.
Gidget’s only hope is to post bail for her husband. A judge approved a $15,000 bail for him, an impossible sum for a couple with five children and no assets of their own.
That's why Gidget has turned to the Internet and opened a GoFundMe account to try to raise $20,000. At press time, people had contributed less than $500.
Fortunately, the lawyer who is helping her husband agreed to work the case pro bono. “Thank God that came through,” she said.
Juan Pedro is at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where last week more than 750 undocumented immigrants there went on a hunger strike that ended just before Easter.
“He has diabetes and needs to eat. I told him not to do it,” Gidget said.
As it is, she says he only gets a sandwich for every meal.
His sugar levels shot up to over 500 in the days after his arrest, his wife said.
“His sugar levels have been going up because of the stress. They just got back to about 145,” she said.
On Monday, as she headed for the hospital with labor pains, Gidget had left her kids with a neighbor she barely knows.
The couple doesn’t have family and friends nearby and they’re not close to those in California either.
With all of this, Gidget feels she’s at the end of her rope.
“I feel I can’t go on. To know that my husband didn’t do anything and he’s locked up, it hurts," she said.
“I don't know what I’m going to do. I’ve been trying to stay strong for my kids, but it’s hard.”
If you want to help this family, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/gidget-candia-romero.