As we count the days until the president's impending announcement on immigration reform, the millions who continue to live under the constant threat of deportation find little relief. Often times, it is the children of immigrant parents who suffer the most. Stories continue to surface of children being torn from their parents and families, no longer with the safety and security of family life.
In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, one American citizen recounts her story of returning home from school to an empty house, only to find her family had been deported. Actor Diane Guerrero, who stars in Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin is the U.S. born child of immigrant parents. She reports her family came to the U.S. from Columbia to escape a poor economic reality, moving first to New Jersey, and then to Boston.
In a story familiar to thousands of families across the country, Guerrero says she watched her parents try to get legal status for years. They gave money to people they thought were attorneys, who misled them, and offered no real help. Eventually, at the age of 14, she came home from school to find dinner started, and the lights on, but no one was home. Her neighbors reported her parents and older brother had been taken away by immigration officials.
Guerrero found herself on her own, with no government official checking to see if she had food or a place to live. She eventually was taken in by family friends, and allowed to continue her education at a performing arts high school. With her family living thousands of miles away in Columbia, Guerrero says they missed important parts of family life including her prom, and graduations from high school and college.
Thousands of similar such stories can be found across the country, which Guerrero acknowledged. Indeed, a New York Times article chronicled another story of a family facing the ever-present threat of being separated because of the threat of deportation. Born in Ecuador, Sara Martinez sought a life in the U.S., to raise her children away from the poverty she had known in her home country.
When Ms. Martinez arrived in the U.S. in 2005, she sent her older daughter to live with friends because she feared the child would be deported by immigration officials. In fact, Ms. Martinez and her husband were apprehended in 2011, taken away from their daughters and detained for a day before being released.
Ms. Martinez says the constants stress and struggle over their unlawful status helped to break up her family. She now lives with her youngest U.S. citizen daughter, while working a clerical job that does not afford her enough money for new cloths or tutoring for her daughter. Now, Ms. Martinez says that without legal status, she has lost hope that something will change.
According to the New York Immigration Coalition, there are millions of similar stories across the country. Here in southern Arizona, we are home to some of the largest detention centers in America, at Eloy and Florence. Thousands of those detained have deep family ties in the U.S., and are awaiting some official announcement that could offer them some hope or relief.