July 26, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A Jackson Heights mother’s world has been turned upside down as her husband, father to three kids, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in recent days.
Alfredo Flores, a 36-year-old Mexican national, was just hours into his long Greyhound bus journey to visit his brother in Seattle, WA, when he was detained by ICE in the morning of July 16, according to his wife, Wendy Valverde.
“He can’t drive there because he doesn’t have a license, and he obviously can’t fly,” Valverde, a naturalized citizen with roots in Peru, said.
It was Flores’ first time making the 21-leg bus ride to Washington, and neither Valverde, 33, nor Flores were aware that the route dipped into Canada.
“Mr. Flores was encountered at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry in Buffalo, New York…after having been refused entry into Canada and returned to the United States in the custody of Canadian authorities,” said Khaalid Walls, an ICE spokesperson.
Walls added that Flores had no criminal history, but was previously apprehended by border patrol over a decade ago after attempting to enter the U.S. without inspection. “On that date, he was permitted voluntary return to Mexico,” he said.
Valverde, who has been married to Flores for three years and was with him for four years before that, only learned of her husband’s state well into the evening of the day he was detained, when he called her from an ICE detention center in Buffalo but was forced to keep the call brief.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I have nightmares, I haven’t eaten, and my kids miss their dad.”
Their children, ages 5, 4, and 2, only know that their father isn’t home, and are too young to understand the conditions of his absence, Valverde said.
Flores has been able to make a couple of phone calls to the home since being detained last week, most of which have been spent talking to his children.
Valverde says it’s hard for her to hand the phone to her children and see them break into tears. “They start crying non-stop. It breaks my heart,” she said. “But he misses them, how can I say no?”
The mother of three, who quit her job in Sunnyside months ago to be able to spend more time with her children, has spent the 10 days since his arrest trying to navigate the legal system, find pro bono help, leaving unanswered messages to aid groups, and trying to raise $10,000 to post her husband’s bond, all while caring for her kids.
A fundraiser she started on Facebook is her closest bet so far, with $465 raised in less than two days. Valverde’s goal is to raise the funds before Aug. 7, when she will travel to Buffalo to be with her husband for his court appearance.
At times Valverde says it feels like the walls are closing in on her, but she tries to stay focused and not imagine the worst for her family.
“Sometimes I get scared—I don’t even have half the money yet, but I have to keep trying,” she said.
To have her husband, who was working two jobs as a bartender and waiter prior to being detained, be ordered back to Mexico would be devastating for her and their children.
“I’ve never been to Mexico, and the kids grew up here,” she said. “It’s all they know. But at the same time it’ll be very hard for me if I stay here and have to take care of the kids and pay rent and child care alone.”
Valverde is planning on making and selling ice cream at the Peruvian Parade in Paterson, NJ this weekend to help raise money, and will also cook and sell Peruvian food the following weekend at a friend’s spot in Corona.
To donate to the “Raising Money for Alfredo Flores” fund, click here.
The cook-out in Corona will be held on Aug. 5 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 104-58 42nd Ave.