KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After nearly four years apart, a Kansas City family will be reunited in time for the holiday season.
Steve Stegall and his wife, Letty Stegall, have been separated since her deportation in February 2018 to Mexico.
“As you look around, you tell me our streets are any safer than what they were before Letty was taken away," Stegall said.
Letty was arrested and deported as part of a local sting that targeted undocumented immigrants with criminal histories. She was lumped into the effort because of a misdemeanor for driving under the influence several years ago.
Letty was picked up by immigration agents outside her local gym on Feb. 26, 2018, and dropped off in Mexico five days later.
“It was very shocking, very heartbreaking, having to tell my daughter, 'Your mom is not going to be here for your graduation; she's gone,'" Steve said. "It was one of the hardest things to do in my life."
For years, Letty has been in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the process even more.
“The embassies were shut down for almost a year," Steve said. "It was one thing after another and, you know what, you can’t predict things like that. You just have to keep your head up and keep going."
Despite being married to Steve, Letty still has to go through the U.S. citizenship process after originally entering the country illegally.
"People think the US immigration system is easy, and it isn’t," immigration attorney Rekha Sharma-Crawford
said. "It really is time for Congress to address the impact of a broken system and the consequences it causes families. The law is broken and until Congress helps fix them, the system will continue to cause heartache and heartbreak for so many families trying to do the right thing."
In the meantime, Steve is excited and grateful that it's almost time for a reunion with his wife.
“We’re super happy," Steve said. "We just can’t believe that the time has come and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time."
Steve said it could be anywhere from 25 to 50 days before Letty returns to Kansas City.