Despite no choice in migrating to the United States, an undocumented child has little or no option of gaining legal status independent of their parents under the present immigration system. Bianca and Lorena are just two of the countless children fighting what is currently an unwinnable battle. The sisters, who crossed the US/Mexico border with their mother when they were 10 and 11, are now approaching the end of high school. Both sisters want to attend college here in the United States but with no documentation they will have difficulty finding scholarships to fund their continuing education. Do Bianca and Lorena return to Mexico, a land now unfamiliar after their extended absence? A land with limited opportunities and rampant poverty. Do they remain in the United States, forgo college and join an unskilled workface? Or do they continue their education, only to end up with a college degree, but remain “illegal”?
Jailed Houston Imam Zoubir
Imam Zoubir Bouchikhi, a native of Algeria, has legally lived in the United States for eleven years with his wife and four children, three of them American-born. During these eleven years he has served as a religious and community leader in the Houston area. In 2003, he applied for permanent residency status as a religious minister. He also applied for his wife and their oldest child. Four years later, their application was denied. The family appealed, but the appeal was rejected in November 2008. A month later, in December 2008, immigration officials arrested Imam Zoubir at home in front of his wife and children. He was held without bail until May 2009. Currently he is out on bond pending further hearings.
Miguel: Citizen-child of Undocumented Parents
“Miguel” was an American-born, citizen child living in southwestern Minnesota. He attended the second grade while his mother, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, worked at a plant in Worthington, Minnesota. Miguel was described has a “happy little boy” doing well in school until December 12, 2006 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the plant where Miguel’s mother worked. After school Miguel returned home to an empty house and for the next week stayed at home caring for his two-year old brother. Finally, his absence was noticed at school and help arrived. Upon returning to school, the once happy child became withdrawn and his grades sharply declined. Miguel and his brother are only two of the millions of American children left parentless and emotionally damaged by the current immigration system.
The Flores Family
Pedro Flores works as a meatpacker in Garden City, Kansas. Flores’ six children and wife Ventura live on an impoverished ranch near Guanajuato, Mexico. The Flores family has been separated for 13 years as Pedro works and lives as frugally as possible in order to save the money required for his family’s legal migration to the United States. “I want to see my family. Sometimes when I come home [to Mexico], I don’t feel like going back up there. But out of necessity, I have to go back.” Pedro’s story is not uncommon or new. The United States has a long, proud history of offering hard-working families the opportunity for a better life. But the cost of this better life is high, perhaps too high. Like Pedro, millions of parents are forced to choose between providing for their hungry children or extended, heart-breaking separation from their families and loved ones.