A mother of 6 tries to explain to her children why their dad and father figure is gone after ICE took him away

Melanie Bieri and family

My name is Melanie Bieri and I am a United States citizen. On October 25, 2018, I received a phone call that would change my life forever. My husband, Nestor, was pulled over for a traffic stop. He is undocumented and was deported once before in 2009. He left that morning and now almost eight months have gone by since our family has been together. He has missed so many holidays, birthdays, celebrations, and milestones that it brings tears to my eyes.

Our son, Luca, was seven months old the day I received that phone call. Now fifteen months old he is walking, beginning to talk, and is turning into a little man. He only recognizes his dad by his voice over the phone and the pictures around our home. Our daughter, Julia, is three. What do you tell a toddler about what is happening in our family? She knows that he left that morning and never came home. I told her that daddy was doing a “big job” and would be home as soon as he could. Every day she tells me that she misses her daddy and can’t wait for him to come home. The other night she said, “When daddy comes home I’m going to give him so many kisses!”

We have twin daughters that are nine. When they ask questions about why their step-dad is not home I tell them it was like if they got caught without a hall pass at school. They have no idea of the severity of the situation, but certainly understand that our life is not the same. Our older children are now caregivers, tutors, and short order cooks, taking over for me when I’m at work. All of my children miss their dad and I miss my husband dearly. The man who provided for them, loves them, cared for them, and taught them to be the amazing human beings they are today is not with us.

American families are being torn apart. As United States citizens we have the right to have a voice in this process. Our situations should be a priority in the immigration debate. The stories of the U.S. families and children of undocumented immigrants should be heard.


The following is an essay that my oldest daughter wrote on behalf of her step-dad:

Around seven years ago my mother finally gained the courage to break off her relationship with her boyfriend, a man who brought drugs, manipulation, and abuse into our household. They had been together for eight years and had twin daughters together. He was a selfish man who struggled with his own demons and never chose our family over his own self-indulgent needs.

I wasn’t sure if my mom could find someone to fill the shoes of a father in our house after everything we’ve been through. Our family was large and vulnerable to the judgments of others because we were born to separate fathers. My mom wouldn’t tolerate an unhappy marriage for the sake of her family. I wasn’t sure who could suddenly fill the role of a father for our family, but Nestor accepted the responsibility.

I am grateful for Nestor’s presence in our family and how exceptionally hard he works to care for my mother and his children and step-children. I am grateful that my parents had Julia and Luca, whom we all love and adore. If it were up to me to change the course of events that have led us to where we are now, there isn’t anything I would change. I couldn’t imagine a timeline in which Julia and Luca were not with us, and I can’t bear the thought of our life without Nestor. Mom says, between bouts of tears, “I know that it’s my fault for falling in love with Nestor, for entering into this knowing he was undocumented,” but everything is too complicated for me to simply place blame onto anyone. Is Mom at fault for bringing him into our family? Is Nestor at fault for coming to the United States in the first place? I can’t say, but I also can’t express any sort of regret or resentment for their actions. Nestor really was exactly what my family needed and he has done everything in his power to provide for us.

My mom and Nestor work exceptionally hard. They share a deep responsibility for our household. They love and guide us forward — Nestor loving all of my siblings as much as his own biological children. Nestor is the father that my brother, Devin, really needed — teaching him to be strong, to work hard, and to care for the family. He encouraged him to study and do well in school, a  privilege Nestor never had. My step-dad was home every night to make sure we had a good dinner, took our baths, and he tucked us into our beds.

My mom works a full-time job and when she isn’t at work she is tending to two young children, mitigating arguments between Devin and the twins, shopping for our needs, and taking our great-grandmother to her doctor’s appointments. My parents cooked dinners that made us want to skip lunch so we’d have extra room. They provided us a clean and beautiful home to live in, funded the tutor that Avery needed to keep her from falling behind in school, drove Peyton to her cheerleading practices (which is all she talks about anymore), and took Devin to get the counseling that he needed. Our parents worked extremely hard to ensure us a rich childhood, but much of it has been lost without Nestor.

There’s no longer any sense of normalcy or security in our household. As each day passes Nestor’s absence becomes harder and harder to bear and all the more impossible to explain to a confused and frightened three-year-old. Julia asks me “Where is daddy? He come home soon?” She knows that he’s gone and, unsure if she has the capacity to understand, we’re afraid to tell her that he might not be home — perhaps for a very long time. She heard Devin come home the other day and, thinking it was her father, ran to the door with an excited “Daddy!” It broke her big brother’s heart to think he disappointed her.

My siblings and I have lost our dads before, whether they deliberately stepped out of our lives or grew into such monsters that they forfeited the right, but Nestor was taken from us. He’s never wronged us or hurt us, has willingly sacrificed to provide for us, has made our mom so happy, and yet he was forcibly removed from our family. It isn’t fair to the children in my family who will lose a father, to my mom who will lose her husband and dear friend, or for the government to punish us in this way.


American Families United is the only national organization that focuses on immigration problems involving separated families. We are U.S. citizens married to people with Immigration problems. U.S. citizens are the most neglected constituency in the immigration debate. Please consider joining American Families United in the fight to reunite our families.

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