The United States has seen a rise this year in the number of nonviolent undocumented immigrants being deported. Human rights organization Families For Freedom estimates that about 100-thousand undocumented parents are separated from their children each year. WKAR's Karel Vega takes us to the home of one family facing that situation.
It’s a Sunday morning in Ann Arbor, and 49-year-old Lourdes Salazar Bautista is getting her three children ready for the day. The kids are finishing breakfast before Lourdes has to take her son, Brian, to a soccer game. The family appreciates mornings like these because they know they may be numbered.
Lourdes Bautista came to the United States from Mexico in 1997 on a travel visa not long after her husband’s arrival. Everything seemed fine until 2010. She was on her way out of the house to take the kids to school when she was stopped in her front yard by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
19-year-old Pamela is the oldest of the siblings. She was only 12 the day she saw her parents taken away.
“I just remember that like my dad was leaning he was on his knees looking up to see what was going on outside,” said Pamela. “He was scared [and] he didn’t want to go outside. I remember he ran to go get me and he asked me if I could see what was going on. And I ran out, I was only in seventh grade and I just remember seeing them like detaining my mother in front of me. And they weren’t answering any of my questions either…”
Lourdes spent more than three weeks locked up in a detention center.-- After being released, Immigration officials gave her a stay of deportation to take care of the kids, but her husband was sent back to Mexico. It’s been seven years since she last saw him. The last time, Lourdes says immigration officials only gave them time to hug, and say goodbye.
For the past seven years, Lourdes has received an annual stay of deportation. However, this past March when Lourdes went to her annual appointment to renew her stay, the immigration agent told her she had an Order of Removal because she had missed a court appointment. Lourdes says she was never told about the order. Now, she’s been ordered to leave the country by July 10th, 2017.
“There’s no work back there,” Lourdes said. “My husband has spent the last seven years working at a ranch. But that’s not the life I want for my kids.”
If Lourdes is forced to leave, her three children will be separated. Pamela is entering her sophomore year at Michigan State University. She says she’ll return to school in the fall, but the fate of the two younger children is more complicated. Especially for 13-year old Brian:
“He wasn’t as fortunate as us to grow up with my dad to grow up with both parents,” said Pamela. “So just taking another parents away from him I don’t think it’s the best for him. I think it’s best if he stays with our mom. And honestly, I don’t think I could take care of my brother.”
The sisters tell me that growing up as the children of immigrants in the US, they never truly felt like they fit into either culture. Pamela was always afraid of her friends finding out about her life.
“You know a lot of parents seem to implant their thoughts and feelings onto their children obviously,” said Pamela. “I think it’s just the... to be honest I’ve always been scared of what my friends might think of me, and what my friends might say to me.
Ron Walker is an immigration lawyer based out of Detroit. He says situations like the one Lourdes is in rarely end with the person being allowed to stay in the country.
“Well anytime you’re in the country without legal status, that is you’re undocumented; it’s very very difficult and in many cases impossible to get a legal status while you’re physically in the United States,” said Walker.
The family is nervously waiting until next week for the next decision to be made, and to find out if Lourdes is sent to Mexico. If the worst does end up happening, Pamela says it’s not the end of the story.
“Her dream is for us to get an education,” said Pamela. "To do something with our lives. So I’m not gonna let that go to waste. If my mom gets deported I’m not gonna stop. I’m gonna keep going and one day bring her back and show her that all her hard work was worth it.”
Until then the family will keep living their lives as normally as possible. Lourdes and Brian get in the car to head to one of Brian’s soccer game. 'Be good! I love you!' she says to her kids before they drive off.
“Se porten bien! Love you!”