Phoenix – In his two years of life, little Jesus Pereyra Jr. has faced some tough trials, first in surviving a heart transplant and now the possibility of being separated from his dad who could be deported.
The little boy, still convalescing, hangs onto his father's legs as if aware that he might soon be gone if forced to go back to his native Mexico.
Like many others, Jesus Pereyra Sr. crossed the Arizona desert on foot illegally in 2005 in a difficult five days's march through scorching heat in search of a better life.
"We had no water or food, they assaulted us and took everything we had, even our shoes," the 24-year-old Pereyra said in an interview with Efe.
With much effort and sacrifice, Pereyra settled in Phoenix and since then has worked in construction and installing swimming pools.
In 2007 he met a neighbor, 22-year-old Raquel Garcia, whom he later married.
Just when the undocumented immigrant thought he had it all, a family and a job, he was detained in a sweep by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Pereyra was put in line for deportation in January 2010.
He didn't have the minimum 10 years living illegally in the United States required to appeal his deportation, nor could he regularize his immigration status even though his wife is a U.S. citizen.
Under current law, Pereyra must go back to Mexico for his application to be considered.
While Pereyra was dealing with ICE, his son was diagnosed with a rare condition in June 2010, for which only a heart transplant could save his life.
"I knew then I had to leave the country to obey the judge's order, but I couldn't leave my wife and, above all, my boy who was fighting for his life," Pereyra said.
After three months of waiting and in what the parents call a "miracle," little Jesus received the heart transplant he needed, but now his dad runs the risk of being arrested at any time and deported by ICE.
"It would be impossible for us to take him to Mexico," Raquel Garcia told Efe, because following the transplant their son needs constant medical checkups and the medication he will have to take all his life.
"My son could not get that kind of medical care in Mexico," his mother said, unable to keep back the tears.
Marina Alexandrovich, the immigration attorney representing Pereyra, told Efe that she is currently focused on trying to reopen the immigrant's case since his son's illness occurred after the immigration judge heard his case.
"I only want the chance to be with my family, with my son, to take care of him and work for them," Pereyra said.