After near deportation of vet's wife, more military families reveal their immigration horror stories

Holovach, 53, first served from 1982 to 1986 with the 3rd Armored Division in Germany. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he decided to serve again, re-enlisting in 2002 with the Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division.

In 2004, the 42nd was activated. Holovach, a network systems operator, spent 11 months deployed and served in a signal unit in Tikrit, Iraq.

“But mostly I was a commander’s driver,” Holovach said.

Their base got mortared almost every day, Holovach said. Once he got home, he had a hard time coping.

“Brian, you’ve changed,” said wife, Esmeralda, 56, who he’d married in 2003.

Esmeralda was a petite beauty from Guatemala who’d stepped out of a big, red pickup truck at a Burger King.

“It was love at first sight,” Holovach said.

When Holovach got back from Iraq, he struggled to cope and began drinking heavily. “She didn’t like it,” he told Military Times. “I was on a downward spiral. She lifted me up. I love her. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her”:

They have tried to get her legal status adjusted for 15 years. Holovach said immigration officials recently informed his lawyer that the paperwork they previously filed cannot be located, and their next hearing is this October. If for some reason the judge is unavailable that day, their case “gets pushed another year,” Holovach said. “That’s the way the immigration court system works.”

In the meantime, his wife’s legal residency is still in jeopardy.

“I love my country. I love my family,” Holovach said. “But this is one thing I’ve promised her. Nothing is going to happen to her. If she ever was, God forbid, brought into ICE, I would camp out at their doorstep with a sleeping bag and a tent. She would not do it alone.”

For others, it’s too late. While retired Army Spc. Charles Shreve fought in Afghanistan with the 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, his wife Claudia left the U.S. earlier this year “after being given the option to depart voluntarily, or be deported.” Shreve “drove the family’s household goods to to their new home in Mexico in January. He and the couple’s two older children, who are U.S. citizens, will join her after the school year ends in June.”

“The concerns I have for [my clients] are the concerns I have for so many,” said the family’s attorney David Funke. “They support themselves, they have family, they are not criminals.” But under the Trump administration’s mass deportation policies, “all that goes out the window.” Funke says he is also representing two other military families facing deportation.

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