Parents ask: What happens to my child if I'm deported?
The questions started pouring in immediately.
Am I at risk of being detained even though I haven’t committed any offenses?
What should I say to ICE if they ask me where I was born?
Will massive raids happen in public spaces?
As the Trump administration released its new immigration rules, immigrant rights groups have been grappling with an uptick in concerns. One of the most common: What happens to my child if I’m sent away?
In the United States, there are roughly 5 million children under the age of 18 with at least one parent who’s living in the country illegally. About 79% of those adolescents are U.S. citizens, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
According to the Pew Research Center, 10% of the 11.1 million immigrants who are living in the country illegally live in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The details of Trump’s immigration crackdown remain blurry. He has talked about mass deportations, but has also said he wants to focus on individuals who have criminal records. The latter was also a focus of the Obama administration’s immigration policy.
The lack of specifics has fueled rumors and fears in immigrant communities.
Trump’s promised crackdown has won praise from supporters who say people who broke the law coming into the country should be sent back, no matter how long they’ve lived here. But others have strongly criticized the president’s tough rhetoric and say it’s cruel to tear apart families.
Guadalupe Galindo, 46, has lived in the United States for 29 years. If she’s sent back to Mexico, she would leave her 10- and 8-year-old girls in the care of her 24-year-old daughter. Though she says the distance would be painful, she won’t fathom an alternative.
“I can't expose them to the dangers,” she said about life in her native country.
She has kept her two younger girls in the dark, protecting them from worry. The weight of reality falls on her oldest daughter’s shoulders.
“It's one thing being a sister, and it's another thing to take responsibility like a mother,” Galindo said. “Like taking them to school, and like a mother, representing them in everything.”
For others, permanent separation isn’t an option.
Mario Castillo is a father of two — one 5-year-old and one just shy of 2. If deported to El Salvador, he and his wife plan to leave the children with someone in the United States who could send them on later, aware of what that might mean for their future.
“They’ll be living a different life than the one they deserve here. They were born here,” he said.