Latino America has a story “When Parents Get Deported Citizen Children Fight to Survive,” by Erynn Elizabeth Reitmayer, which is well worth reading. More than 5 million children currently live in the United States with at least one undocumented parent. Close to 75 percent of those children are U.S. citizens. When one or both parents are deported, children often have to choose between living with their immediate family — in another country — or living without them in the United States.
The following are just a few of the stories featured in Erynn Elizabeth Reitmayer’s Latino American article:
BORN IN THE AIR?
Kendrick Nunez, 18, is one of those citizen children who would be affected if the “anchor baby” bill became law. He and his citizen sister currently live in Arkansas without their parents, who were deported to Mexico. He finds the logic of the movement confusing.
“That seems unreasonable. What, you’re just born in the air?” Nunez says. “I recognize there is a problem, but there has to be a better solution.”
Nunez and his younger sister initially followed their parents and other siblings to Mexico but returned to the United States so they could continue studying within the American education system.
“I didn’t go to school when I was in Mexico. I spent my time working — in a car wash, a water park, a field,” Nunez said. “I was illegal there. All my best friends in Arkansas were graduating. I felt like I was missing out on something.”
PARENTS DEPORTED, CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE
Because Christopher’s only legal parent, his citizen father, was unable to be his guardian, he accompanied his mother back to Mexico as a young child. When a citizen child is left in this situation — either because both parents are deported or a legal parent is unable to take custody — they often end up staying with relatives who have legal status, entering public foster care or wandering homeless. Complications surrounding a parent’s ability to come to the United States after they have been deported can make it difficult, or impossible, for some deported parents to regain their parental rights, meaning that their children can be put in foster care for long periods of time or put up for adoption.
Such was the case for Nathaly Perez’s mother, who was deported in June 2008, leaving her three teenage daughters behind.
Perez, now 18, was born in San Diego to a large family with varying immigration status. Her parents and four older siblings were all born in Mexico. Nathaly’s sister Eralia, now 19, was just over a year old when the Perez family moved the to the United States. Her two older brothers and eldest sister were nearly grown. Over the next two years, her mother had Nathaly and another daughter.
Although Perez’s father immigrated legally, his status was revoked when he and Perez’s mother were both jailed for a domestic disturbance. He was subsequently deported in 2006. Perez’s mother was given probation. Following her father’s deportation, Perez recalls her mother struggling to support the family alone, sometimes working two or more jobs to care for her three young daughters.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
The desire to help immigrants take part in the American Dream drove Jose “Joe” Kennard to take action. A successful real estate investor and land developer, Kennard founded the Organization to Help Citizen Children with hopes that he might find like-minded community members to spark a movement toward providing better options for citizen children.
Until two years ago, Kennard and his wife lived in Seattle — as did Ana Reyes, a woman Kennard had never met. Unlike Kennard, however, Reyes was living and working in the country illegally. In 2007, U.S. immigration officials came to arrest Reyes early on the morning of her birthday. It was also the day her 13-year-old daughter Julie Quiroz was to graduate from seventh grade. Instead, Quiroz spent the afternoon helping her grandmother empty her family’s Seattle home, preparing herself and her younger sister to move to Mexico.