Steve and Letty Stegall enjoyed their life running a small bar in Kansas City, Missouri and raising Letty’s teenage daughter from a previous marriage — but that life came to an end on February 26, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers pulled up to their home and carted Letty away.
According to The Associated Press, Letty came to the United States illegally in 1999 at the age of 19 and, though married to a U.S. citizen and mother to a citizen daughter, Letty’s immigration status remained “illegal” in the eyes of the federal government.
After an arrest for driving under the influence six years ago, Letty was able to stay in the country, but along came President Donald Trump and her situation changed.
Many of the regulars at the Stegall’s bar were shocked and disheartened to find out its owner had been deported — but many of those same patrons voted for Trump, aware of his hardline stance on illegal immigration.
Perhaps most notable, Steve’s parents — Letty’s own mother- and father-in-law — voted for Trump as well.
Many in the bar this night, including Steve’s parents, gave their vote to Trump. They liked his promise to bring jobs back to the U.S. and the vow to make trade with China fairer. And they supported him when he said criminal immigrants would be deported. They just didn’t consider Stegall one, even if she came to the country illegally.
“I’ve always been proud to be an American,” says Shirley Stegall, Steve’s mom. “But now I’m ashamed.”
Despite the Stegall’s situation, many of the bar’s customers still support Trump’s agenda, a fact that Steve fails to understand.
The dichotomy angers Steve. When someone balances compassion for his wife with support for Trump, he’s confounded.
“He’s destroying American lives,” Steve says of the president. “How can you do this? How can you do this to your own American people?”
Though Trump spoke most often of deporting undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to the U.S., such as gang members and others convicted of violent crimes, the majority of those returned to their home countries have committed low level offenses, and under Trump, a growing number have committed no offense at all.
While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement often touts the criminal convictions of those rounded up, arrests of migrants with convictions for offenses such as driving under the influence (59,985 in fiscal year 2017) outnumber those of immigrants previously convicted for homicide, sexual assault or kidnapping. (Those collectively totaled 6,553 in 2017.) Meantime, arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions have increased significantly since Trump took office.
For the Stegall’s, it will likely be a minimum of two years before the family could possibly be reunited in the U.S. — but it could also take another decade.