KANSAS CITY, MO — A Kansas City woman whose daughter-in-law was deported now says she regrets voting for President Donald Trump. Shirley Stegall initially supported then-candidate Trump’s promised crackdown on undocumented immigrants, but said she never imagined he was talking about people like her daughter-in-law, Letty.
Letty Stegall was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the end of February, flown to the Mexican border and told to walk across four days later. She had immigrated illegally to the United States almost 20 years previously, and her temporary work visa was set to expire in March.
A misdemeanor drunk driving arrest from six years ago may have expedited the arrest.
But Letty isn’t dangerous, Shirley Stegall said. Married to an American citizen — with a daughter who is also an American citizen — Letty isn’t one of the “bad hombres” Trump promised to deport.
The Stegall family took their case to federal court, and won a stay of deportation just days after Letty’s arrest, but it was too late. Letty was already gone.
Letty Stegall celebrated her first birthday away from her family on July 23.
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“The new normal, really, is rush and push people out of the country, regardless of what’s going on,” Stegall’s attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, told the Associated Press.
“She was doing everything she’s supposed to do,” Letty’s husband, Steve Stegall, told KSHB Channel 41 in Kansas City. “She wasn’t hiding. She wasn’t trying to not pay taxes and mooch off the U.S. She was part of the U.S.”
He said the hardest part of the ordeal was breaking the news to the couple’s daughter. “She came home telling me she got an A on her test, happy. I was like ‘Oh, God… Honey, that’s great but I have some absolutely horrible news.'”
Deportations are skyrocketing under the Trump administration for immigrants with minor criminal records — or no criminal record at all. Critics say the zero-tolerance policy makes it harder for the government to find and deport real criminals — the gang members Trump often speaks of.
Shirley Stegall agrees.
“They didn’t take out the people who are dangerous,” she said. “The murderers are still there. The gangsters are still there. The rapists are still there.”
She has a message for Trump voters who may still support his deportation policy.
“They need to have an open mind, and think if this happened to one of their family members, what it would be to go through what we’re going through,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon. “Our pledge of allegiance, at the end of it, says ‘liberty and justice for all.’ It doesn’t say liberty and justice for you, for me, for our neighbors, it says for all. And I feel we have not had justice.”
The Stegall family has set up a Facebook page to raise awareness, keep friends and family updated and hopefully bring Letty home. Most posters have been supportive, but the family said they have also been harassed with racist comments, including some suggesting her daughter — an American citizen — should also be deported. Several others simply commented: “MAGA.”
“I’ve always been proud to be an American,” Shirley Stegall said. “But now I’m ashamed.”
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