Story of a Mormon couple's struggle with immigration

The wedding was all set. The bride would travel from Mexico City to Rexburg, Idaho, where she would walk down the aisle of the Mormon temple in her white dress. She would marry that crazy guy from the radio who had been courting her.

Then it all fell apart, here in Los Angeles, in the bowels of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

The bride had to go through immigration in L.A. before catching her connecting flight to Idaho. She thought her papers were in order. So when the immigration agent asked her the purpose of her visit to the United States, she responded truthfully, "I'm going to get married."

Before she knew it, she had been deported and was on the next plane back to Mexico.

Deyanira Escalona's Idaho wedding had to be canceled. This pushed her fiance, the already excitable Benjamin Reed, nearly over the edge.

"They treated her very poorly," Reed said of the agents at LAX. Among other things, he said, they took wedding invitations they found in her purse and handled them as if they were evidence of a criminal conspiracy. "They treated her like a dog."

I first met Ben Reed, a veteran Idaho radio DJ, while reporting a story for The Times nine years ago. Ben is not someone you easily forget. He's a former Mormon missionary and fluent Spanish speaker who used to be a conservative talk show host. Among Spanish radio listeners in southern Idaho he's known by his on-air persona as "El Chupacabras," or the goat vampire.

Reed once was a devout Reagan Republican. Then his corner of southern Idaho filled up with Spanish-speaking people. He fell in love with his new neighbors. They were emotional people who always seemed ready to hug him. He became addicted to their music and their food. And he fell hard for Deyanira too.

All of this has led him to put on "the moccasins of the immigrant," Ben told me. Now nothing looks quite as simple as it used to. Love and empathy will do that, which is why some people think love and empathy are as dangerous to America as the swine flu.

Read the rest of this story at latimes.com
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