A Military Wife's Rock and Hard Place

Before her husband was deployed, Yaderlin Jimenez was granted a reprieve.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 12:54 PM

June 20, 2007 — -- The wife of an American soldier missing in action in the Iraq War faces another potential crisis at home: deportation.

Yaderlin Jimenez's husband, Army Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, a Purple Heart recipient, disappeared when his unit was ambushed by insurgents May 12.

Now the immigration status of his Dominican-born wife, who illegally entered the country in 2001 and married Jimenez in June 2004, hangs in limbo.

At a dramatic hearing in immigrant court April 29, 2006, where Jimenez appeared in full-dress uniform alongside his wife, Judge Philip J. Montante granted the couple a temporary reprieve putting a stop to the proceedings until Jimenez returned from what would be his second tour of duty.

"For humanitarian reasons, [the judge] realized it was unconscionable to go forward with an immigration case while Jimenez put his life on the line," Matthew Kolken, the immigration attorney representing the Jimenez family, told ABC News.

A spokesman for Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told ABC News that the agency currently has no intention of deporting Yaderlin Jimenez. But with Jimenez missing in action and not yet declared a casualty of war, his wife's immigration proceeding is more up in the air than it's ever been.

If Jimenez was killed in action, his wife might get special treatment to obtain a green card, say legal experts.

Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and associate professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was not familiar with the Jimenez case but speaking generally, said that it would be difficult to stave off deportation if a soldier remains missing and is considered alive by the Defense Department.

"It's impossible in most cases for the spouse of a military member to get legal," said Stock, who estimates that thousands of soldiers are married to illegal immigrants. "There is no provision in immigration law that gives special provisions to spouses of military."

The Jimenezes married June 14, 2004, in New York, shortly before he left for his first deployment to Iraq. That same day, Kolken said, Yaderlin was encountered by U.S. Customs and Border officials and charged with entering the country illegally. She was briefly taken into custody and released, Kolken said.