WASHINGTON — American children whose parents are undocumented immigrants brought a heartrending plea to the White House and President Donald Trump on Thursday: Don’t make us orphans in our own country.
The kids, among dozens who were organized by the group We Belong Together, fear that Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration could deport their parents, even if they haven’t run afoul of the law in any other way.
Deportations dramatically increased during the Obama administration, but the focus was on immigrants who had committed serious crimes. The Trump administration’s orders stepping up enforcement include just about anyone.
Those undocumented immigrants often have American children. And they are afraid.
“I live with the fear of being separated from my mother every day,” said Leah, an 11-year-old from Miami whose mother is a domestic worker facing a deportation order.
“It is like when somebody you care about can die at any moment,” she added, standing outside the White House, accompanied by activists and other kids. “Why can’t I just enjoy being a kid? I cannot sleep or do my homework. All I can think about is my mother being taken away from me. I am so worried about my life.”
A mom of two children who is in hiding narrowly avoided likely deportation in February, when she sought sanctuary in a Denver chuch. Jeanette Vizguerra, who has reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement regularly for 20 years while she sought a visa to escape violence in Mexico, fled a hearing on her case when her advocates noticed a squad of police apparently ready to arrest her.
“My mom has been going through the struggle of getting threatened and us getting scared by ICE,” said her son, Roberto, 10.
“I think it’s not fair for children to be living in fear or for parents not to be able to be with their children,” said her daughter, Luna, 12.
While those children and others all spoke of the worry they have of their own government, they also declared they would not relent in their bids to keep their families and other kids’ families whole.
“I want to tell Mr. Trump that he is a bully, and no matter how mean he is, and no matter how hard he tries, he will never break out spirit,” Leah said. “We are not afraid of you.”