A grandmother known as the “backbone” of a San Diego military veteran’s family was sent back to Mexico on Friday, more than two weeks after she was picked up by immigration agents outside her house in unmarked SUVs on Valentine’s Day.
Clarissa Arredondo, 43, is the mother of Adriana Aparicio, whose husband is a Navy veteran working as a contractor in Afghanistan. The couple has two daughters, 2 and 3, and Arredondo, who came to the U.S. more than 25 years ago, helped take care of them.
“We get together all the time,” Aparicio said. “We can just be hanging out at her house, singing and dancing with the girls. They love doing that with her. She does their manicures and pedicures. She just spoils them.”
Aparicio, 27, said officials told her family that her mother was an enforcement priority.
“They consider my mom as a criminal for lying on paperwork to get welfare,” Aparicio said, adding that officials said that happened more than a decade ago.
Arredondo’s case is one of many popping up around the nation as President Trump sets out to redirect immigration enforcement priorities from his predecessor’s choice to focus on immigrants who committed violent crimes.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not able to answer questions about Arredondo’s case. The San Diego Union-Tribune could not find any record of convictions for Arredondo in either federal or California state court record systems.
Aparicio had no recollection of her mother using welfare or getting in trouble for doing so. She remembered her mom working three jobs, cleaning hotels, houses and apartments to make ends meet.
“I had a happy childhood,” Aparicio said. “She made sure of that.”
When Aparicio was about a month old, Arredondo crossed into the U.S. from Mexico with Aparicio and Aparicio’s father. Arredondo was 16 years old.
“She was a child trying to make a way for her own child,” Aparicio said.
Arredondo left Aparicio’s father and raised their three children, Aparicio said. Her two brothers are U.S.-born.
“She’d take us to work sometimes when she didn’t have anyone to watch us,” Aparicio recalled. “She’s never given up.”
Aparicio’s husband, Bennie Hill, has worked as a contractor in Afghanistan since he ended his seven-year service with the Navy.
His mother, Lt. Col. Marie Pauley, is on active duty in the Army and has been deployed around the world. She said she appreciates Arredondo's role as the other grandmother in her grandchildren’s lives.
“Me being far away, she eases my heart,” Pauley said via telephone, speaking personally and not in an official Army capacity. “I haven’t been the good grandmother that can be there all the time. I’m trying to live through her.”
Kate Morrissey writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.