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Nelly Aguilar: After husband deported, mom trying to be strong for children

Sarah Asch
Austin American-Statesman
Nelly Aguilar, 37, and her children, left to right, Cristopher Moran, 11, Yessenia and Sophia Cruz, 6, and Cecilia Moran, 17, have been trying to figure out what life will be like now that their father has been deported to Mexico. "We were not prepared for him to be taken all of a sudden like that," Aguilar says.

Nelly Aguilar did not expect to be facing this holiday season without her husband. Aguilar works as a house cleaner and lives in South Austin with her four children. Right before the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the state in March, her husband was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on his way to work.

“We were not prepared to receive that kind of news,” Aguilar says. “I didn’t know how to tell my kids.”

Aguilar said adjustment to life in Austin without her husband has been hard on all her children and their mental health. She said her youngest children, 6-year-old twins Yessenia and Sophia, have a hard time comprehending what happened to their father.

“They’re young and they don’t understand why their dad isn’t going to come back right now,” she says. “I tried to explain that for right now dad can’t be with us but one day he can hopefully come back.”

Aguilar has struggled with what it means to be left with all the responsibility at home. With the pandemic making it difficult to find work, she has struggled to pay for basic necessities.

“I was thinking: What am I going to do here by myself? I thought about taking the kids and going with him because I didn’t think I could do it being here by myself,” she said. “It was a hard hit for all of us. We were not prepared for him to be taken all of a sudden like that.”

Despite the difficulties her family has faced this year, 17-year-old daughter Cecilia says they have done their best to keep moving forward.

“Although we go through so much and we are practically on our own right now, we’re still managing to get through,” Cecilia says. “We’re still right by each other’s side. And we’re pushing through this.”

Cecilia likes to draw and is hoping to pursue a career in cosmetology. Her brother Cristopher, 11, always helps his mother around the house, and Aguilar says he often plays with his younger sisters. The twins insist on being dressed alike whenever possible, their mother says.

Aguilar said her biggest priority is for her children to overcome the challenges that come with going to school during the coronavirus and her husband’s deportation to Mexico.

“I have to fight every day for them to try to help them get ahead so they can have a good future,” she says. “I want them to achieve all their goals in this country.”

A mobile home and lot; washer and dryer; laptops for the children and Wi-Fi services; bunk beds for the twins; microwave and refrigerator; rent and utilities assistance; television and cable; gift cards for clothes for each family member; immigration legal services; H-E-B gift cards; education after high school for Cecilia

Wish list available at Walmart.

Nominated by: The SAFE Alliance, P.O. Box 19454, Austin, TX 78760. 512 203-1281,

Its mission: SAFE is a Central Texas nonprofit committed to providing safety, stability and healing to anyone who has experienced domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault or sex trafficking — Our mission is to stop abuse for everyone.