This week marks three years since Vancouver’s Ramon Flores checked into a Motel 6 in Everett — a business trip that resulted in his deportation to Mexico, after the motel gave his name to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and changed the course of his family’s American life.
Ramon, 46, had lived undocumented in the United States for about 20 years, raising seven children with his wife, Enedis, and operating a small grocery business.
He was among the estimated tens of thousands of people in Washington and Arizona whose guest registry information was provided by Motel 6 to ICE agents without a warrant or the guests’ permission. The practice spurred state-initiated and class-action lawsuits, and resulted in settlements totaling $22 million.
In December, The Columbian published “Bridging the Border,” a three-day series that followed the Flores family as they navigate life on opposite sides of the border — Enedis and six children in Chula Vista, Calif., and Ramon in Tijuana.
Now, we want to continue the discussion.
The Columbian is hosting a community forum from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday in Vancouver Community Library’s Columbia Room, 901 C St. The event will feature Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a panel with local perspective on immigration issues. A video created as part of the series will be shown, and questions for the panel will be accepted from the audience. This is a free event and is open to the public; seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis.
The forum is produced with support from Fort Vancouver Regional Library District and CVTV. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting supported the project.
Since that fateful Valentine’s Day in 2017, the Flores family has endured separation, poverty and homelessness, and yet, they continue to hang tough.
In a phone interview last week, Enedis Flores, 54, said the family’s Christmas was pleasant. Everyone could be together at Ramon’s apartment — an improvement from Thanksgiving, when two of the older children’s work schedules kept them in California for most of the holiday weekend.
“Everything was peaceful,” said Enedis, as a friend translated Spanish to English.
Ramon is barred from re-entering the U.S. for 20 years. He continues to work in a cabinet shop in Tijuana while searching for other sources of income to help his family.
Enedis, a U.S. citizen, is on multiple welfare programs to support her and their children. All of the children are U.S. citizens.
“I feel sometimes bad. It’s so difficult. I feel good when I have a job and make something for me and my family. I try to in the future to do something better,” said Enedis, whose second language is English.
Her rental assistance through the county recently ended, but she was able to pay the rent on her own this month. She worries, though, because the rent is about to increase $50, and she is still searching for a new job.
Enedis is enrolled in community college and was recently awarded a grant, designed for single parents, she said, to help pay for school and her transportation there. She’s in the ESL program, for reading, writing and oral expression, and in the process of applying for student worker positions.
Over the winter break, she attended a workshop to learn how to apply for scholarships, and she plans to apply for anything she can.
“She’s really been on top of her game trying to find the best options for her and acquire as much knowledge and skills as she can, because she is in a very competitive city, where everything is so expensive and the odds are limited,” her friend said.
Enedis said she’s feeling “a little bit better because being at school distracts her and keeps her mind off of other stuff,” her friend translated. “It’s up and down. Some days are better, some days are not as good.”
She’s been grateful for the support of the community — particularly from the place the family used to call home. People have contributed to a GoFundMe account (www.gofundme.com/f/1uqg473lc0) for the family and sent them gift cards.
The family is optimistic that money from the Motel 6 settlement will help their situation.
“I hope that I can find a way for my husband to come back,” Enedis said. “All of the kids say, ‘Mom, can Dad come back, we go to Washington again.'”