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Reality Of Possible Separation Sets In For American Children Of Undocumented Parents

Erika Mahoney
Daisy holds her parents hands. Both of her parents are undocumented.

The fear of deportation is looming large over the region’s undocumented community. And for US-born children with undocumented parents, the reality of possible separation is setting in. 

“My name is Daisy. I’m a sophomore and I am 15 years old.”  Daisy is just one American teenager who is preparing for her worst case scenario.

Daisy asked us to only use her first name for this story. While she and her brother are U.S. citizens, she wants to protect the identity of her parents.  Both are undocumented.

“I have always known that my parents were undocumented and I knew that it was an obstacle,” Daisy says.

She’s sitting on a loveseat squeezed in next to her mom and dad. He’s still wearing his work uniform – a collared button-down shirt with a name tag sewn on it.

Daisy holds a pillow in her lap. She nervously picks at a loose thread. It’s 9 o’clock at night and she just got home. Between homework and extracurricular activities she says these long days are normal.

“Usually I get home late, not because I want to, kind of because I have to because I know that my future depends on what I’m doing now. And my future is to go to school,” says Daisy.

She wants to study medicine, possibly become a surgeon.  It’s the kind of future her parents hoped for their children when they moved here before Daisy and her brother were born.

Today the family lives in this two-story home with a fireplace and an aquarium full of goldfish that hums in the background. Pictures of Daisy and her brother cover the walls. Holding her dad’s hand, Daisy says when President Trump was elected, she began to worry her parents could be deported.

“Honestly this is the first time that I’ve actually been like whoa, this can actually happen,” Daisy says.

The question for her is would she stay in the U.S. to continue her education, or go with her parents.  

“Usually I try to, you know, avoid the conversation because it’s very sad to me. I don’t like crying just because I kind of feel like vulnerable you could say. But I, I usually tell them that if they do get deported, I’m going to stay, just because I do want to continue my education here,” says Daisy.

But staying can be complicated. Being under 18 years old without parents in the United States means the risk of ending up in foster care.  That’s why lawyers are advising families like Daisy’s to make a plan; find someone who could be a guardian for your child and get it in writing.

One place parents can go for help with that is the Monterey County Bar Association, an organization which connects people with local attorneys.

Community Engagement Coordinator Joseph Belmont says since President Trump was elected, the number of calls he’s received from families like Daisy’s has gone way up. Those folks usually talk to a lawyer like Sara Sturtevant.

“The fear is very real. And so folks are coming in and trying to figure out what they need to do,” Sturtevant says.

Sturtevant helps families fill out the paperwork to nominate a legal guardian.  It’s a proactive step that only transfers guardianship if the parents are detained or deported.   

The paperwork process takes about half an hour and costs around $50 through the Bar Association. Sturtevant says being prepared gives these parents peace of mind.

“I mean first of all, if you’re prepared then the fear diminishes greatly. My experience is once parents come in there was high anxiety around these issues, as soon as, we get the paperwork done and in place and they’ve had a chance to get some legal help, then that diminishes almost immediately,” says Sturtevant.

But for children like Daisy, peace of mind is hard to come by.

“It’s very hard for me to bear the thought that my parents, at any moment, can be taken away from me and I’d be left alone,” says Daisy.

In the event of that worst case scenario, Daisy’s parents have picked a potential guardian.  Now they just need to get it in writing.

Due to the high demand for help, the Monterey County Bar Association recently began hosting free immigration clinics.

“We are helping families and people put tools in their toolkit in order to be prepared,” Executive Director of the Monterey County Bar Association and Foundation Jennifer Dalton said.  

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