It was two years ago this week that Liz (Larios) Horn’s life was turned upside down. What seemed like a scene out of a movie became a reality as U.S. Immigration and Enforcement agents arrived in black suits and vehicles to the home Horn shared with her boyfriend Russell Horn. Still in her pajamas, Horn was arrested and hauled away with her parents to a federal holding facility and deported to Mexico a few weeks later.
The story is a complicated one (check out the original stories, “Nightmare At The Border” from the November 29, 2010 Express and “Deported” from the December 25, 2010 issue). To recap: Horn’s parents came to Michigan with legal work visas when she was three. She grew up in Traverse City, graduating from West Senior High, and her parents were popular at their respective places of employment.
The family’s only problem was their work visas had expired and the cost to renew them (over $30,000) was beyond their means. That, and the fact that they would have to return to Mexico and wait several weeks for the renewal, which would have meant losing their jobs.
DEPORTED TO JUAREZ
The family gambled and lost, and are now living in Juarez, Mexico, also known as the “murder capital of the world,” a border town opposite El Paso Texas.
Yet, since being deported, Liz has not lost hope of returning to the U.S. to start her life again with her now-husband Russell Horn. They married in Mexico on Valentine’s Day of 2011.
“We are working with a Chicago-based attorney who specializes in cases like mine,” said Horn, who is now 26. “We are optimistic that all the necessary paperwork will get approved and we will have a Christmas miracle. I can’t say enough about Russell and what he has done for me and my family. Any other guy probably would have walked out on me a long time ago.”
Russell Horn has been dedicated to getting the love of his life back to the United States. When the ordeal first happened, he sold everything he owned to raise money to go to Mexico to bring her home. He literally auctioned off his belongings for pennies on the dollar and quit his job, heading to Mexico shortly after she was deported with all the money he had raised.
In the two years since then, Russell Horn has been working for a seismic drilling company, traveling the country working in very tough conditions. He works 90 to 100 days straight with no days off for nine-to- 12-hour days and then gets two weeks off. During those two weeks he goes and stays with Liz and her family.
“This is extremely tough on Russell, because not only is he supporting himself but he is also supporting Liz and her family and paying all of their bills,” said Lynda Horn (Russell’s mother). “There just isn’t work there for her family. In addition, he pays $1,000 a month to the law firm working to get Liz back into the country legally. Plus thousands more for all the paperwork.”
Despite paying all the bills, Russell Horn has no control over the Larios’ housing and the home they have been renting has been sold. Now, Liz and her family have to move.
“It is unsettling and I just lost my job as a bi-lingual assistant for a company that has relocated to India,” said Horn. “I hope to find a new job soon. But things are tough here. Now we have to find a new place to live and that is not easy.”
For Russell, the safety of his wife and her family is his top concern, especially since they have seen people shot and killed. Liz also lost her brother and sister-in-law; both were brutally murdered by one of the drug cartels. Presently, Liz and Russell are caring for her young niece, whom they hope to bring to the United States.
“We keep to ourselves down here; you have to be very careful,” said Horn. ‘When Russell comes here on his two week breaks we don’t go anywhere, it is too dangerous.”
Liz and Russell Horn just don’t seem to be able to get any breaks. Ironically, if Liz was among the 1.2 million illegals currently in the U.S. under the age of 31 and having arrived before the age of 16, she would qualify for the amnesty program introduced this past summer.
“It is so frustrating because Liz was three when she came here, went to school here and had two jobs. Her parents were hard workers, they were taxpayers,” said Lynda Horn. “Now the government has this amnesty program and those who were not caught and deported will get to stay. My daughter-in-law is viewed as a criminal, it doesn’t make sense.”
Liz keeps dreaming for the day when she gets to cross the border back to the place she calls home.
“I feel like I am living a modern day fairytale and Russell is my Prince Charming. We hope to go home to Traverse City and start a family in the future,” said Horn. “First though, if I do get to come back I will go on the road with Russell while he works until we can save up enough money to return to Traverse City and afford to buy a place.
“All my friends are there in Traverse City and my parents know they can never return but they came here to give me a better life so I remain positive that better life will happen.”
Liz and Russell Horn have committed that if Liz does not get approval to return they will keep living as they are now, even if that means forever.
“When Russell and I got married and we looked each other in the eye and said for better or for worse until death do us part we meant it,” said Horn. “I don’t know how many 26-year-old guys would stick with a girl who lives in a place where he risks his life every time he comes visit. Then on top of it, work his ass off to give his whole paycheck to his wife’s family. He is probably the only guy like that in the whole world and I was lucky enough to find him.”
Liz and Russell Horn will know their fate soon, possibly before Christmas. When she was first deported some friends created a special bank account, Operation Save Liz at Fifth Third Bank. That account remains open and if anyone would like to assist them financially simply drop by any Fifth Third location. Look for an update here in the Express once the federal government has ruled on her case.