Juana Reyes: Mother, grandmother, immigrant, detainee


Juana Reyes, the subject of this story, has lived in Minnesota for more than a decade, raising her children here after fleeing an abusive relationship in Mexico. Yesterday–July 9–Juana was arrested by ICE agents and taken away in handcuffs. According to the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network: “Juana has been a Minnesota community member for 14 years, has served as a ray of light for her church community and worked to provide a better life for her four children and three grandchildren. … Betty, her nine year old U.S. citizen daughter, is restless and crying for her mother.

“Juana originally came to the U.S. to escape the grip of her abusive husband and to seek a better future for her and her children. Senora Reyes is a woman of compassion, hope and love. During the 10 day religious fast for immigration reform, she marched 10 miles to the state capitol, leading her community through 90 degree heat after not having eaten in 10 days. During the fast, Juana visited the offices of Senators Coleman & Klobuchar, Representatives Walz, Ellison and Ramstad. She has also advocated for immigrant youth and the Mn Dream Act. Juana’s humbleness, kind voice, and warm spirit have swayed immigrant foes into immigrant friends.

Juana Reyes is a face in the crowd of immigrants

By Caitlin Burgess, NewsSouth
Juana Reyes sat quietly in an orange armchair and playfully tugged at a beaded bracelet on her left arm.

“This is my daughter, Betty,” she said while she displayed the bracelet and the small picture that hung from it. “She gave this to me and said ‘Mommy, when you miss me you can look at my picture and be happy.’”

Reyes smiled and said that this is one of the two things that keep her happy and satisfied everyday. The other is her faith.

For ten days, Reyes, along with many other volunteers, used her faith in God to fast as part of a project created by the Amigos de la Fe (Friends of Faith) organization. The 10 days of fasting and prayer were done in order to press for immigration reform and inspire community members to get involved with the issue. According to one of the Amigos de la Fe leaders, Ireno Mojica, fasting was viewed as a sacrifice in return for God’s help in achieving the group’s goals,

For another article about Juana Reyes and the immigrant fast, see
Minnesotans fast for immigration reform

“God is listening. He’s the only one listening.” Reyes said. “We’re doing this with the help of God and we wouldn’t be able to do it without His help.”

In September of 1993, Reyes crossed the United States-Mexico line and stepped into a world she called, “More beautiful than the movies” and much kinder than her old life in Mexico.

In Mexico, Reyes and her three children were victims of domestic abuse. “My life is now better here,” she said. “My husband, I love him, but he hurt me and one day I had to leave.”

A friend in Mexico told her to come to Minnesota because the state has beautiful weather and more job opportunities. For the last eight years Reyes had worked at a factory in Minneapolis trying to support her children.

However, the beauty that she so admired from the movies has began to fade. Four months ago the factory told Reyes that without “real” documentation of citizenship she wouldn’t be able to keep her job.

“One day they called me in and said that they needed my real Social Security number, and I didn’t have it, so they let me go,” Reyes said with tears rolling down her cheeks. “I don’t have it. It’s really hard [to get documented].”

For the last four months, Reyes struggled to make ends meet and said that without basic necessities, she thought she would die.

When she heard about the immigration reform fast, she felt that she had to participate because she believed that it would be another step toward securing the future for her family.

“The future is maybe not for me, but it is for the children, all the children,” she said. “It’s [fasting] not only for me, it’s for everyone in my family.”

Not only has the fast helped her see a brighter future, she has also realized that food is not the only thing that keeps you alive.

“I think when I don’t have food, I will die. But right now, I am not hungry.” She said. “I’m okay and I don’t need to eat…I found God in my heart.”

It could still take years for Reyes to gain citizenship, or perhaps she won’t get the opportunity to achieve documented status. According to Amigos de la Fe volunteer Sarah Scott, raids are happening all over the United States and two have already happened in Minnesota.
In spite of all the terrifying possibilities, Reyes remained calm, cool and collected.

“I pray every time when I am scared or worried,” She said. “When I found God in my heart it was a miracle. I don’t worry now.”