Brooke Jarvis reports for the NY Times:
“More than a thousand children are counting on Nora Sándigo to become their guardian if their undocumented parents are deported. How many of those promises will she now have to keep?
Because she didn’t know what to tell her children, she tried not to tell them anything. When they asked where their father was, she gave flimsy excuses: Yes, he came home last night, but he left while you were still asleep. He’s working late, he’s working early, he just stepped out, he’ll be back soon. “You just missed him,” she found herself repeating.
The strategy worked, for a few days at least, with the youngest three. They were all under 5 and were used to the world going about its strange business without them. But then there was Kelly. She was 8 and sharp-eyed, a good student who preferred English to Spanish and wanted to someday be a doctor, or maybe a gymnast, and who had watched a presidential candidate on television say he wanted to send people back to Mexico, where both her parents grew up.
Kelly came home from school one day in October last year and demanded to know where her father was. Because his construction job started so early in the morning, Javier was usually the first home. That was part of how he and Kelly’s mother, T., fell in love. They boarded in the same house more than a decade ago, when she was 19 and freshly arrived in South Florida, having followed her sister from their small village in southern Mexico. T., who is being identified by her first initial to shield her identity, quit school after sixth grade. She helped her parents plant corn and beans but dreamed of something better for herself and her infant son; she decided to leave him in her mother’s care and support him from afar. Javier was from the same region, and because he finished work early, he cooked for her while she was still out in the Florida sun. The food was delicious and tasted like home. Soon they were a couple, and then Kelly was born, and her father, who fainted with anxiety in the birthing room, adored her, and she adored him back.
“He’s late from work,” T. told her daughter.
But Kelly wasn’t having it. Before heading to school that morning, she saw uniformed men come to the door and ask her mother for her father’s passport; she heard her mother on the phone, asking what had happened, what to do. “Don’t lie to me,” Kelly said, and started to cry. “Where did they take him? What did he do?”
By now T. knew. One of her first phone calls was to an immigrant advocate and former refugee named Nora Sándigo, who, in this poor area south of Miami, was the most powerful person in many people’s worlds: She knew lawyers, county commissioners, even members of Congress. After T. called her, Sándigo quickly discovered that Javier had been detained by the Department of Homeland Security. T. didn’t tell Kelly the details she had learned from Sándigo, or from Javier, when he was finally able to make a brief call. That they arrested him just a few yards away from their home, as he stood waiting for his ride to work. That now he was on the edge of the Everglades, in a gray-and-tan detention center adjacent to a state prison, a half-hour’s drive away, a distance that, for T., had suddenly become unbridgeable. “He was arrested,” she told Kelly, simply. “We have no papers to be here, like you do.”
“Will they take me, too?” Kelly asked. She didn’t know what papers her mother was talking about, what this thing was that she had and her parents didn’t.
T. didn’t tell her daughter the other reason she called Sándigo. Across South Florida, T. knew, undocumented parents of citizen children were preparing for possible deportation by signing power-of-attorney forms that allowed Sándigo to step in should their own parenthood be interrupted by a surprise visit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. If they were taken away, at least Norita, as they called her, could provide stability while the family sorted out what to do; she could also sign forms on their children’s behalf at school, or at the hospital, or in federal court.
Sándigo’s responsibilities extended to many hundreds of children, and were growing all the time. Parents, some of whom had never met her in person, were desperate for any solution. Her qualifications were simple. She was compassionate. She was willing. And, like their children, she was a United States citizen.
For years, T. never felt the need for such an extreme contingency plan. Now she was thinking of adding her own children to Sándigo’s list. “Imagine if they detained me too,” she said after Javier was gone. She couldn’t envision taking her American children with her to Mexico, where she “wouldn’t be able to give them education, shoes, clothes,” and where they would be separated from their friends and lives and ambitions, from the only home they had ever known. But what would happen if they stayed behind, with no parents left to care for them?
There’s a common misconception that having a citizen child — a so-called anchor baby — allows undocumented parents to gain legal status in the United States. In fact, parents of citizen children are deported annually by the tens of thousands, according to ICE’s own reports to Congress. Randy Capps, a demographer with the Migration Policy Institute, estimates that as many as a quarter of the people deported from the United States interior (who are counted separately from those deported at a border) are the parents of American children. Though immigration law prioritizes family connections, including legal status for the family members of Americans who petition on their behalf, children are the exception. They cannot, by law, petition for anyone until they turn 21 — by which time, of course, they won’t need their parents nearly as much.
Families like Kelly’s are known as “mixed status” — a reminder that the way we talk about immigration, with clear lines of legality separating groups of people, is often a fantasy. The reality is a world of families with separate legal statuses but intertwined fates. More than four million American children are estimated to have a parent in the country illegally. If deported, those parents face a difficult choice: Take their children to a country they do not know, whose language they may not speak and one that lacks the security and opportunities they have in the United States; or leave them behind, dividing the family. Courts have regularly responded to the argument that a parent’s deportation will deny a child, as one lawyer put it, “the right which she has as an American citizen to continue to reside in the United States,” with the counterargument that such children are not, in fact, deprived, because they retain the right to stay in their country and the right to live with their parents — just not both at the same time. “That’s what I call a choiceless choice,” says David B. Thronson, a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, who helped found the Immigration Law Clinic.
But it’s a choice that’s familiar to millions of families, including Sándigo’s. “I lived that,” she said one day when I met her at her office in the suburbs of Miami, a one-story stucco house that serves as the headquarters of the Nora Sándigo Children Foundation. When she was 16, her parents sent her away from Nicaragua to escape the violence of its civil war; her family, she says, was targeted for opposing the Sandinistas. “I feel like I am one of those kids,” she continued, “because I came with the same problem. I had my father and mother, but I was an orphan without them. Separate from their parents, they become orphans, like me.” She remembers sobbing as she watched the country of her birth recede from the plane window.
When she left Nicaragua, Sándigo went to Venezuela, then France, “trying to get something legal,” and in 1988 finally ended up in the United States, where the organization that helped her settle here offered her a job working with other refugees from Central America and advocating for their asylum. The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act was passed in 1997. In Miami, she helped other immigrants with paperwork and resettlement matters, like looking for apartments or jobs. She also started a business of small nursing homes, which, along with a plant nursery, helps cover her foundation’s bills. She never went back to Nicaragua, not even when her father was dying. He told her to stay in the United States and be safe. It was her country now, he said.
As Sándigo’s reputation grew, it became common for strangers in Miami’s immigrant communities to seek her out, asking for help; the requests opened Sándigo’s eyes to the depth of people’s need. She remembers bringing six towels to a woman with five children, who was shocked at the abundance: “So many!”
One call, in 2006, was for a new kind of assistance: A Peruvian woman, whom Sándigo had never met, was being held in a detention center, and she wanted to give Sándigo power of attorney to make decisions about her children’s care. (Unlike full legal guardianship, which is conferred by a court, power-of-attorney forms don’t involve a transfer of parental rights.) Others in the center had warned her that if she didn’t do something, she might lose her children to the child welfare system. Sándigo doesn’t know why the woman thought of her, but she felt honored, and obligated, by her trust: “When she called she had the papers signed and notarized already in my name.”
The Peruvian woman’s children never called on Sándigo, but word of what she had done got out. In 2009, a brother and sister, ages 9 and 11, showed up at Sándigo’s door with their uncle; their mother, they said, was in detention, and they weren’t going to eat until she was released. Sándigo remembers the oldest, Cecia, now a student at Georgetown University, saying, “We’ll stay with you,” to which she replied, “But this is an office, baby.” Still, she made a place for them. Jerryann, one of Sándigo’s two biological daughters, recalled: “You were like, ‘Oh, they’re going to stay the night.’ And then one night became forever.” The children moved in — they ended up staying for six years — the case attracted a lot of publicity and soon there was a steady stream of requests. “That gave the perception to the people, probably, that I was accepting the power of attorney from everyone in the same situation,” Sándigo said.
Many of the people who contacted Sándigo wanted only a temporary backup, a documented adult whom their kids could call in the moment of crisis to avoid ending up in the child-welfare system. According to an ICE spokeswoman, “ICE is committed to ensuring that the agency’s immigration-enforcement activities, including detention and removal, do not unnecessarily disrupt the parental rights of alien parents and legal guardians of minor children.” But navigating the immigration and child-welfare systems simultaneously can be difficult. Emily Butera, a senior policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me that many parents have come to believe that they will lose their rights automatically: “We’ve started explicitly saying to people, ‘Your children are not the property of the U.S. government.’ ”
Other parents planned for their children to stay with their undocumented friends or relatives, but wanted Sándigo to sign papers or fill official roles that they couldn’t. Still others hoped that their children would live with her, maybe for the remainder of their childhoods — something Sándigo wasn’t promising and worried that people assumed she was. But still, she never said no. When people came to her looking for help, Sándigo found it impossible to deny them. The numbers grew into the dozens, and then to the hundreds. “We never planned this,” Sándigo said one day. “It was planned by nobody. It just came.”
. . . .
Two days later, nine adults and 36 children gathered at Sándigo’s house to pack into three rented vans for the 18-hour drive to Washington. T. tried to find space under a seat for a stroller — she was bringing all four daughters — while Sándigo stood in front of local news cameras, speaking in Spanish. “How can they be American citizens if in their own country they’re treated so harshly?” she asked. Kelly wandered into the frame, and Sándigo pointed to her: “Her father was deported,” she said. “It’s very hard.” Kelly noticed the cameras turning to her and darted away. “We hope they’ll listen to these American children,” T.’s sister told Telemundo.
Finally, space was found for all the diaper bags and suitcases and gallons of frozen milk. The kids lined up for a group photo around an American flag. The plan was to drive through the night, a challenge with so few licensable drivers among the adults. The vans pulled out past a small lineup of news cameras.
A few minutes later, they were back. Sándigo had gotten a call from the only English-language station to respond to her news release: The cameraman was running late. Sándigo agreed to redo the exit scene. “For us, the English news is the most important,” she said. Its viewers were the ones whom she most wanted to hear from the children, their fellow citizens.
Kelly and the others dutifully spilled out of the van into the sunshine. Valerie, in her native, teenage English, told the new camera the same things she’d told the others in Spanish: about missing her parents, about how hard it was. She was proud that she’d finally learned to talk about them without crying.
Then the children all climbed back inside for another try at reaching their nation’s capital.
The cameraman stood in the empty street for a long time, watching them disappear.”
Read the complete, much longer story, at the link.
What are we going to tell our fellow citizens when they grow up and become essential parts of our society? What’s going to happen when they come into power in various forms. How will the descendants of Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his “fellow travelers” expect fairness, forgiveness, and mercy from others when their ancestors had and gave none? What are we doing to resist the current regime and insure their eventual removal from office?
Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, CHRISTIANNA SILVA reports on how, led by Chief Scofflaw Jeff “Gonzo Apocalyoto” Sessions, the Trump Administration continues its assault on our Constitution, women, Latinos, immigrants, and the REAL rule of law by attempting to force immigrant teenagers to carry pregnancies to term against their will:
“The Trump administration is attempting to block two young undocumented immigrant women in federal custody from obtaining an abortion, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to head back to court today.
The two women, known to the court as Jane Roe and Jane Poe, requested to have an abortion. The Office of Refugee Resettlement refused their request.
The organization says this refusal, which has become common under Trump, shouldn’t be acceptable. The administration has been requiring these young women to go to religiously affiliated “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” that require patients to “have a medically unnecessary sonogram” and urges them to carry their pregnancy.
This case comes after the recent “Jane Doe” case in which the civil rights group stepped in and helped another immigrant receive the care she requested.
“We’ve already stopped the Trump administration from blocking one young woman’s abortion,” Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a press release. “But the Trump administration is relentless in its cruelty, blocking abortion access for the most marginalized people in our country.”
The Jane Doe case was the first major abortion battle under Trump, in which a 17-year-old came to the U.S. from Central America in September. She was detained and learned that she was pregnant. When she was at the government-funded shelter, she attempted to get an abortion but the government didn’t allow it. That was the first undocumented immigrant abortion case the ACLU took to the court to fight the Trump administration.
According to a previous report by Newsweek, The ACLU told the court that the Trump administration unlawfully barred Jane Doe from having an abortion for a month. The court agreed with the ACLU and Jane obtained an abortion the next day, but the fight is still on between the group’s lawyers and the Trump administration.
After winning in court and receiving her abortion, Jane Doe said in a statement that she came to the U.S. for a better life.
“No one should be shamed for making the right decision for themselves,” she said in a statement released by the ACLU on October 25. “I would not tell any other girl in my situation what they should do. That decision is hers and hers alone.”
So, how are Gonzo and other Trump Administration scofflaws not in jail for contempt of court?
What’s the REAL difference between “America First” and “Deutschland Uber Alles?”
How long will we suffer through this national travesty of having a racist, anti-Constitutionalist, White Nationalist, scofflaw in charge of our Department of “Justice” and perhaps ever more appallingly our U.S. Immigraton “Courts?”
Easy to understand why there are so many “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” in the U.S. Hard to understand why all jurisdictions aren’t “Sanctuaries?” But, history will show who resisted and who went along with the “Fourth Reich!”