'I admire Estela's resilience and strength,' Alejandra said of her daughter. 'She is on fire.'
Estela Juarez is speaking her truth. The 13-year-old, whose mother Alejandra was deported to Mexico in 2018 under the Trump administration's immigration policies, first grabbed national attention through a video that aired at the Democratic National Convention in 2020, in which she read a powerful open letter to the former president. "Dear Donald Trump, I am 11 years old. My mom is my best friend. She came to America as a teenager over 20 years ago, without papers, in search of a better life. My mom worked hard and paid taxes and the Obama administration told her she could stay. My dad thought you would protect military families, so he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President. He says he won't vote for you again after what you did to our family. Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart," young Estela said in the televised reading.
Now, two years later, Estela is sharing her family's story in the form of a children's book titled, Until Someone Listens. "I wanted to get people to listen, especially legislators, and make changes in immigration laws," the teen told TODAY Parents. In the book—published by Macmillan on September 13 and co-written with Lissette Norman—Estela shares some of her childhood memories involving her mom's undocumented status. From first learning that Alejandra did not have documentation ("a man from the government came to our house") to watching her mom be deported to Mexico ("It felt like someone ripped us in half") and living apart, the book's pages document the young girl's pain and trauma. "I was a cloud—a gloomy cloud that sits and stays," Estela wrote.
TODAY IS THE DAY! 🎉🎉🎉— Alejandra Juarez (@Alemilitarywife) September 13, 2022
Happy book birthday to UNTIL SOMEONE LISTENS co-written with @lissettejnorman and illustrated by @teresamtz! Celebrate with us! @EditorHsu @jcastillobooks @MacKidsBooks#kidlit #picturebooks pic.twitter.com/4qhkTY16uB
Alejandra (43) was granted a one-year humanitarian parole last year after living apart from her family for three years. The parole was recently extended until May 2023 and she is currently back in Davenport, Florida, living with her army veteran husband Temo Juarez—a naturalized American citizen—and their daughters Estela and Pamela, 20. The mother-of-two is fighting for a permanent stay in the U.S. "I am holding on," she said. "We don't know what will happen." The family previously shared their story in the 2019 Netflix docuseries "Living Undocumented," in which Alejandra revealed that she came to the U.S. as a teen in the late 1990s to leave behind dangerous living conditions in Mexico.
With all respect to child writers, I'm not going to interview them unless they're something special. Estela Juarez more than qualifies. An interview with the child activist about her picture book memoir (out today!): https://t.co/mYjTdjjRjG pic.twitter.com/kniABEqc4Y— Betsy Bird (@FuseEight) September 13, 2022
Estela vividly remembers the night an immigration officer knocked on their door. "I was 4 years old and I was scared," she said. "My mom told me, 'I am not as lucky as you. I came to the U.S. without papers.'" Alejandra was placed under an order of supervision and had to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) every two years. However, this arrangement came to an end when President Donald Trump took office in 2016 and imposed stricter immigration policies. Then, on August 3, 2018, the family's worst nightmare came true. "I dreaded going to sleep the night before she left because I knew when I woke up, I would say goodbye to my mom," said Estela. "No child deserves to be without her parent. Those days were terrible."
Estela Juarez is only 13 years old, but she's already written a beautiful book that tells the story of her mother, who was torn away from her family and deported to Mexico when Estela was nine.https://t.co/X6J6h0y1pm @lissettejnorman @Alemilitarywife— The Immigrant Learning Center (@ilctr) August 23, 2022
Now that they are finally back together, albeit temporarily, the family savors daily walks and cooking Estela's favorite chicken flautas. "I admire Estela's resilience and strength," Alejandra said of her daughter. "She is on fire." The teen is already writing a second book. "It's a chapter book for older kids that goes (further) into my experience as the daughter of [an] undocumented immigrant," she explained. "I am so proud of my mom. She's a very strong woman."