A woman approaches a statue of the Virgin Mary outside an Ohio church and kneels to pray. “Here we are again,” she says aloud, in a tone that is at once respectful and weary.
“Oh Mary, I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Please, please, please.”
She recites a few prayers before imploring once more: “I can’t take it anymore.”
It tells the story of Elizabeth Perez, a decorated U.S. Marine veteran, struggling to reunite with her husband, Marcos Perez, after his deportation to Mexico.
The film follows the couple and their four children as they navigate an immigration system that offers them little hope of being together again. A portrait of a marriage as well as the human costs of deportation, it airs April 15 on PBS’ Frontline.
Elizabeth Perez, 40, served a total of 10 years in the Ohio Army National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan. She met Marcos Perez in California in 2009 and the couple moved together to Ohio. He was undocumented, with two decades-old misdemeanor convictions in his past.
More significantly, he had previously been deported, and then entered the country again without authorization. In 2010, he was picked up at a traffic stop in Ohio by local law enforcement officials. Two weeks later, he was deported to Mexico.
The day her husband got picked up, Elizabeth Perez says in the film, “my home became a house.”
Marcos Perez’s prior deportation and re-entry triggered a provision of immigration law that barred him from coming back to the United States legally for 10 years.
The film shows Elizabeth Perez attending marches and rallies, giving speeches, and approaching lawmakers for help bringing him back. She and her husband file repeated petitions for his re-entry. They laugh, quarrel, and confide in each other on FaceTime and Skype. While she and Marcos Perez married in 2010, in Mexico, they are now in their ninth year of a physical separation that remains largely out of their control.
Twice, Elizabeth Perez moved their family to Mexico to live with him, only to return because she felt it was too dangerous for their children.
She knows that she is relatively fortunate, compared to other families.
“I’m lucky because I am a citizen and I can speak out,” she said. “What about all the families being ripped apart, where both parents are undocumented? The one left behind can’t afford to be visible and public, or they might get deported too. These are good people who just want to live and work and raise their kids. They are not criminals.”
Filmmaker David Sutherland spent several years, shooting hundreds of hours of footage, making “Marcos Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” He did not set out to make a political film. “I am a portraitist. The issues come out of the people … I want you to feel as though you are living in their skin. I want you to care about my characters.”
Sutherland kept the ending of the film deliberately vague. “This is an evolving story; about deportation and its effects on a loving family. I hope it helps them, but really I hope it makes people think about Elizabeth and Marcos, and worry about them, regardless of politics.”
Elizabeth Perez’s situation is both unique to her and a reflection of the U.S. immigration system.
This article originally appeared on NBC