SAN ANTONIO – Long before meeting the man she would marry, Yuritzi Gonzalez made a false citizenship claim at a border crossing in 2001 on her way back home to Phoenix from visiting her grandmother in Mexico.
"I just wanted to be with my family. I didn't know what I was doing," Yuritzi Gonzalez said.
She said she remembers crying and how scared she was at the time.
She also said she quickly recanted what she had told U.S. Customs, but they refused her entry.
Although she managed to return to the U.S., Yuritzi Gonzalez said her legal status had not changed.
"I had no idea how bad it was," Yuritzi Gonzalez said.
Since 2010, when she met and married Alex Gonzalez in San Antonio, that unforgettable encounter in 2001 still haunts the couple, now the parents of 4-month-old Fernanda. She was born a U.S. citizen, thanks to her father, on the Fourth of July.
However, the family remains 700 miles apart because they later learned her false claim means she is faces a lifetime bar from ever legally re-entering the country.
She lives in Guadalajara, Mexico, with their baby.
"It's really sad. It's been really sad," Yuritzi Gonzalez said.
She said her dream is to be reunited with her husband, so that Fernanda can grow up in the U.S.
A 20-year Air Force veteran who later flew for the Department of Defense in Iraq and the State Department in South America, Alex Gonzalez travels to see his wife and daughter from Del Rio where he is a civilian flight instructor at Laughlin AFB.
He said he even carries his laptop around his home in Del Rio, so he can SKYPE with them or at least hear his wife and child in the background.
"I'm trying to make it work, but it's difficult. It's really tough," he said.
As a military dependent, Alex Gonzalez said his wife can walk onto any American installation abroad, but she cannot step foot in the U.S.
Alex Gonzalez said the experience has taught him how widespread the problem really is.
Alex Gonzalez said it would have helped families like his, so he is trying to resurrect the bill. He said if there is no illegal activity involved, perhaps a fine or shorter ban would be more appropriate.
He said he will approach freshman U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of San Antonio to see what can he do.
Alex Gonzalez said he knows his wife broke the law back then.
He said even so, "We just hope we can get out of this tornado and live a normal life. That's all we want."