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Children Caught Up In Illegal Immigration Debate

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxdB5UUgIwM

Video published August 13, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: We'll hear about the national immigration debate largely focuses on adults. But there are more than five million children living in the U.S. whose parents are here illegally. We'll hear the story of one young woman living in San Diego.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THE NATIONAL IMMIGRATION DEBATE, LARGELY CENTERS ON THE ADULT POPULATION. LITTLE ATTENTION IS FOCUSED ON THE CHILDREN AFFECTED BY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AND POLICIES. THE CURRENT ESTIMATE IS THAT THERE ARE 5.5 MILLION CHILDREN WHOSE PARENTS ARE IN THIS COUNTRY ILLEGALLY. IF THOSE PARENTS ARE DEPORTED, SOME OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE WILL BE LEFT TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES. KPBS EDUCATION REPORTER ANNA TELLS US ABOUT THE KIDS WHO ARE LEFT BEHIND.

IF I COULD BE ONE PERSON IN HISTORY, I WOULD BE HARRIET TUBMAN.

Reporter: A GROUP OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN VISTA GOES OVER THEIR CLASSROOM ASSIGNMENT. BEFORE THE FINAL SCHOOL BELL READS. THIS CLASS IS LIKE ANY OTHER IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY, EXCEPT FOR ONE BIG DIFFERENCE. EACH STUDENT IS EITHER PREGNANT OR HAS A BABY.

BOY, THAT'S A POWERFUL FEELING AS A MOTHER, WHEN SOMEBODY ELSE CAN CALM YOUR CHILD DOWN, AND YOU TAKE THAT BABY IN YOUR ARMS, AND THEY STOP CRYING. HUH?

Reporter: THESE TEENAGE GIRLS ARE ALL COMING TO TERMS WITH THEIR NEW REALITY AS YOUNG MOTHERS. MOST HAVE FAMILY TO FALL BACK ON. BUT ONE STUDENT IS NOT SO LUCKY. AMY IS 16 YEARS OLD. SHE IS LIVING IN VISTA ILLEGALLY. SHE DIDN'T WANT TO SHOW HER FACE OR GIVE HER LAST NAME, FOR FEAR OF GETTING CAUGHT. AMY SAYS HER FAMILY WAS SMUGGLED INTO THE U.S. FROM MEXICO WHEN SHE WAS JUST IN THE FOURTH GRADE. SHE SAID HER FAMILY LIVED PEACEFULLY IN THE SHADOWS OF THE LAW FOR ALMOST A DECADE. THEN, IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS ARRESTED AMY'S MOTHER AT A BUS STOP IN VISTA LAST YEAR. AMY WAS AT SCHOOL.

I CAME FROM SCHOOL, AND THE PHONE RANG WHEN I GOT THERE. AND IT WAS MY MOM. AND SHE TOLD ME. IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT.

Reporter: AMY WAS ABOUT 8 MONTHS PREGNANT AT THE TIME.

WERE YOU ABLE TO SEE YOUR MOM BEFORE SHE WAS TAKEN AWAY?

NO.

WHAT --WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW HER?

IN THE MORNING.

AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT?

AFTER THAT, MY DECIDED TO GO WITH HER. AND MY DAD STAYED HERE TO WORK FOR A LITTLE BIT. AND THEN HE LEFT.

AND WHY DID HE LEAVE?

BECAUSE HE DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE MY MOM ALONE. SO THEY LEFT.

Reporter: AMY SAYS IT WAS AN AGONIZING DECISION. BUT SHE AND HER PARENTS AGREED, AMY SHOULD STAY WITH HER BOYFRIEND. BUT THINGS BEGAN TO FALL APART WHEN AMY AND HER BOYFRIEND SEPARATED. WITHIN JUST A FEW MONTHS, AMY WAS HOMELESS.

YEAH. LIKE I JUST HANG OUT WITH MY BEST FRIEND. I DIDN'T WANT TO BE LIKE ALONE.

Reporter: THE PLIGHT OF CHILDREN LIKE AMY WAS HIGHLIGHTED IN A RECENT STUDY BY THE NONPROFIT URBAN INSTITUTE. RESEARCHERS NOTED THAT AT LEAST 100,000 PARENTS LIVING AND WORKING IN THE U.S. ILLEGALLY HAVE BEEN DETAINED OR DEPORTED OVER THE PAST DECADE, OFTEN IN WORKPLACE RAIDS. THEY HAVE LEFT BEHIND THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN. THE STUDY FINDS WHEN THOSE KIDS ARE SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS, THEY SUFFER A WIDE RANGE OF FINANCIAL, SOCIAL, AND EMOTIONAL HARDSHIPS. THE MOST COMMON IS NOT HAVING A STABLE PLACE TO LIVE. MARTHA FLORES IS A SOCIAL WORKER IN VISTA. SHE SAYS SHE'S SEEN AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND.

WELL, FOR THE TIME BEING, THEY'RE HOMELESS. THE HOME THEY WOULD HAVE GONE BACK TO, THERE ARE NO PARENTS THERE. SO THEY OBVIOUSLY AREN'T ABLE TO STAY THERE. SO USUALLY, SOMEBODY WILL STEP IN. A FAMILY MEMBER, A FRIEND. OR THE CHURCH. SOMEBODY IS ABLE TO HELP THEM OUT DURING THAT. BUT SOMETIMES, IT'S TEMPORARY.

CARMEN CHAVEZ IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CASA CORNELIA, A LAW FIRM THAT PROVIDES FREE LEGAL SERVICE TO KIDS CAUGHT UP IN THE IMMIGRATION PROCESS.

IT IS A VERY SAD SITUATION. BECAUSE IT REALLY HAS PULLED APART SO MANY FAMILIES. AND UNLESS THE FAMILY HAS SOME KIND OF PREEXISTING PLAN, IF I'M NOT HERE, WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO MY CHILD, WHO IS GOING TO HAVE CUSTODY OF MY CHILD, WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF MY CHILD? WHAT WE FIND THAT HAPPENS, AND THE TELEPHONE CALLS WE GET ARE FROM TEACHERS, SCHOOL COUNSELORS, SOCIAL WORKERS. AND GOOD SAMARITANS.

Reporter: CHAVEZ WORKS TO GET THEIR PARENTS' STATUS LEGALIZED, SO SHE CAN REUNITED FAMILIES IN THE U.S. BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, THE YOUNG PEOPLE END UP LIVING WITH RELATIVES OR FRIENDS. OTHERS ENTER THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM. SHE SAYS STILL OTHERS SIMPLY FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS.

WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN IDENTIFIED? WHAT ABOUT THE CHILD THAT BECOMES HOMELESS? AND THERE ARE CASES WHERE CHILDREN END UP IN THE STREETS OF SAN DIEGO. SOME OF THEM ARE U.S. CITIZENS. SOME OF THEM ARE FOREIGN-BORN, BUT THEY JUST WEREN'T DETAINED ALONGSIDE THE MOTHER. SO WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE KIDS IS VERY TRAGIC.

Reporter: CHAVEZ SUPPORTS A SERIES OF POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS ISSUED BY THE URBAN INSTITUTE, ONE OF WHICH STATES THAT U.S.-BORN CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE A COURT-APPOINTED LEGAL GUARDIAN, WHO CAN FAST TRACK A PETITION, SO ONE OF HER PARENTS CAN LEGALLY LIVE IN THE U.S. SAN DIEGO CONGRESSMAN BRIAN BILL BRAY, CHAIRMAN OF THE CAUCUS DISAGREES.

THIS IS A CALCULATED STRAT KNOWLEDGEY OF HOW TO MOVE-- STRATEGY OF HOW TO MOVE THE LEGALIZATION ISSUE. WE'LL START WITH THE CHILDREN. ONCE WE ALLOW THE PARENTS OF THE CHILDREN AMNESTY. ONCE WE GIVE IT TO THEM, WE'LL GIVE IT TO EVERYBODY. THE FACT IS, WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH LEGAL NET NOW TO BE GIVEN CARVEOUTS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BROKEN OUR RULES. JUST IS REALLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

REGARDLESS. WHAT SIDE YOU TAKE IN THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE, ONE THING IS CERTAIN, COUNTLESS YOUNG PEOPLE ARE BEING SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS. THAT MIGHT CAUSE ADULTS TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE YOUNG PEOPLE LEFT BEHIND.

Comments

Avatar for user 'BuzzyTrent'

BuzzyTrent | August 13, 2010 at 11:49 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Why would a parent not take their children home with them if they were deported? I find this pathetic. If a relative can support these children caught in the middle of immigration law and support their stay in the U.S. I have no problem, but it should not be the states responsibility to be a surrogate and provide the entitlements to these kids. They are citizens and can always return. This report only stokes the debate about amending the constitution (14th amendment).

( | suggest removal )