KANKAKEE, Ill. (CBS) — We often hear about families getting separated after a loved-one living illegally in the United States is deported.
But as CBS 2’s Erin Kennedy reported Thursday, an Illinois mother has an unusual story. She decided to leave the country to stay with her partner and keep most of her family together – even though it has meant moving to the slums of Honduras.
“You don’t know how you’re going to make it,” said Nichole Cummings, “and truthfully, the thing I worry about most is my kids and their needs.”
We talked with Cummings over Skype from her current home, surrounded by poverty. It is a home much different from the one she left in Kankakee – not far from where she met and fell in love with Victor Lopez.
Lopez had fled to the U.S. when he was a teenager. The couple had two girls together, and Lopez became a stepdad to Cummings’ oldest child.
But in 2017, everything changed. Lopez was discovered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported after an incident with a neighbor.
“I couldn’t believe they took him just for being illegal. He wasn’t a criminal; never did nothing wrong. You know, it was my life. I felt torn. I was pregnant, you know, with our third kid,” Cummings said.
“I wanted to die. I got all my life over there,” Lopez added. “I lived the American dream. I woke up and the American dream is gone.”
Not long after, Cummings made the decision while still pregnant to take the younger two kids and join Lopez in Honduras. She left her 10-year-old daughter, Kylie, back to stay with family.
Her friend tried to stop her.
“I told her, ‘You know, you shouldn’t be doing this, because what kind of life are the kids going to have over there, and you know, people come here to live,’” said Phyllis Munoz. “There’s no other thing you can say. She loves him.”
Now after two years, the conditions for the couple have only gotten worse – with no income, crime a constant battle, and three young children to feed.
“It’s hard. It’s real hard I miss my family,” Cummings said. “Truthfully, gunshots become the normal here.”
Lopez is banned from the United States. Whether he will ever be able to return to the U.S. is unknown.
Nevertheless, the family is hopeful that someday they will all be together again in the United States of America.
“People think they struggle here,” Munoz said. “They don’t know until they go to another country what struggling is.