Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Saturday, December 04, 2021

Community comes together to help father, husband come home

<p>From left: Marcelo Flores, Ruben Flores, Felix Santana, Lina Colondres and Ruben Flores Jr. pose for a photo. Colondres uses the family photo on her GoFundMe page.</p>

From left: Marcelo Flores, Ruben Flores, Felix Santana, Lina Colondres and Ruben Flores Jr. pose for a photo. Colondres uses the family photo on her GoFundMe page.

Lina Colondres hasn’t slept through the night in four years.

Instead of sleeping, she goes into her small living room and types her life story onto her cellphone.

She writes about her husband, Ruben Flores Garcia, who was deported to Mexico about four years ago.

Last month, Colondres reached out to UF’s Hispanic-Latino Affairs about events for the Gainesville community. She never thought she’d find help getting her husband back with a group of UF students. After talking to the program coordinator, the group set out to help her raise $1,000 for legal fees.

During the first Cesar Chavez Memorial Day of Service on Thursday, the HLA and Hispanic Student Association announced they raised about $350 for Colondres.

But Colondres said there’s no guarantee her husband will return.

“I miss the pillow talks. I miss the fights,” the 44-year-old said. “I just miss everything.”

•   •   •

feature4.jpg

Ruben Flores Jr. plays with Lego bricks in the family home. Though he is teased at school because of his waist-length braid, the 8-year-old refuses to cut it in honor of his father, who is of indigenous descent.

Before he was arrested, Ruben Flores Garcia was the sole provider for his family. He made $500 a week at a chicken plant in Alabama.

Flores Garcia was arrested at the plant March 26, 2012.

Evan George, Colondres’ lawyer, said Flores Garcias’ deportation is the result of a legal system error.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

He said the family wasn't aware Flores was in danger of being deported. Because of this, Flores Garcia never saw his day in court.

“It’s just a classic example of what’s wrong with the system,” George said. “It boils my blood.”

He’s now helping her get her husband back for free, he said. He couldn’t say no.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “There’s no way they could do this on their own.”

•   •   •

feature2.jpg

Lina Colondres puts on a funny face to make Marcelo laugh. Colondres said after Flores was deported, Marcelo developed behavioral and anger management issues.

Marcelo Flores Colondres turned 3 years old when his father was deported.

Now 7, he has grown up with anger-management issues, Lina Colondres said. Her other son, 8-year-old Ruben Flores Colondres Jr., misses his father every time he earns an award at school.

Ruben has trouble eating. Both wake up in the middle of the night screaming.

“They think, ‘My dad don’t love me, my dad don’t care,’” said Lina Colondres. “And I’m trying to explain to them it’s not him; it’s the government.”

•   •   •

feature1.jpg

From left, Marcelo Flores, 7; Ruben Flores Jr., 8; Felix Santana, 19; Lina Colondres, 44; and Diana Moreno, the UF Hispanic-Latino Affairs Program coordinator, share a smile during the first Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Day of Service. A student-led fundraising drive seeks to raise money to help the Flores-Colondres family pay lawyer fees to reunify with their deported husband and father, Ruben Flores.

Colondres said she survives by the grace of God.

After her husband was deported, she moved back to Gainesville with their three children.

Every month, she receives a $500 disability check and $200 in food stamps from the government, she said. Because of dislocated disks in her spine, she can’t stand longer than five minutes. Diabetes is slowly taking her eyesight. Unable to work, government assistance is her only income.

Despite struggling to clothe her sons, she still manages to place an international call to her husband once a week.

“I am barely making it. I am to the point where I cry every single night,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow; I don’t know if I’m going to feed my kids tomorrow.”

•   •   •

feature5.jpg

Felix momentarily glances away from the game he’s playing on a tablet while his brother Marcelo laughs at the screen. Thier mother, Lina, cannot stand for more than a few minutes at a time, so Felix shares cleaning and caretaking duties around the apartment.

Colondres decided to take matters into her own hands about two months ago.

She said she started a GoFundMe page and raised about $400 on her own. After talking to Diana Moreno, the program coordinator of the HLA, the organization put boxes in the Reitz Union and La Casita to collect money.

“We believe in connecting our students to community members,” said Moreno, who was once undocumented. “The reality of family separation is very close to our hearts.”

As of press time, her GoFundMe page has raised $777, including donations from the HLA and HSA fundraiser.

Michael Reyes, a UF history sophomore, said he donated $5 to Colondres.

“Anything counts,” he said. “I understand it’s tough for people.”

He said he knew what Colondres and her children were going through. Growing up, his parents were undocumented, and as a single child, he feared for what would happen to him if his family was deported.

“There’s always that fear of being separated from your family,” the 20-year-old said.

Colondres said she was excited to see the students who donated money Thursday, but she wished her husband could see them, too.

“I think my sadness takes over, and I wish he was here experiencing this with me,” she said. “I go home a little calm because I know a lot of people know.”

@k_newberg 

knewberg@alligator.org

From left: Marcelo Flores, Ruben Flores, Felix Santana, Lina Colondres and Ruben Flores Jr. pose for a photo. Colondres uses the family photo on her GoFundMe page.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2021 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.