Always illegal, always in fear

Joshua Merioble-Staff Writer

They work among the small golden petals that make up the community. They work among the cows and any related farm work in Sioux County. They do the menial, less-dreamt-of jobs that a college student would likely not want to do. They are among millions in the United States that are said to be looking for a better life in a richer country. They have abandoned their larger families to seek a better future for their children.

They are the “illegal,” “undocumented” and “unauthorized.”

With changes in the political cloud and President Trump’s threats against undocummented immigrants, worry over deportation deprives these people of the reason they came to the U.S.– to have a better life.

“Let us live how we live,” said Veronica, who knows firsthand the plight faced by many immigrants in Sioux County. “We came here for our children to have a better life.”

Veronica’s daughter, a U.S.-born citizen, dreams of being either “an ER nurse or a pediatric oncology nurse.” Amidst her aspirations, however, the girl faces the constant fear of deportation.

“I have had a different childhood,” she said.

While her classmates cheered for President Trump during election season, Veronica’s daughter said that she was in fear of the uncertain future of a Trump presidency.

President Trump, both during his election race and in his few months of presidency, blamed undocumented immigrants for bringing crime and drugs into the U.S. He called these people “rapists” and “murderers.” Then, on Jan. 25, the president issued an executive order. Section 2 (d) states the following:

“It is the policy of the executive branch to: remove promptly those individuals whose legal claims to remain in the United States have been lawfully rejected.”

Though the order addresses all immigrants who entered the country without official permission, Trump has said that his first concern is immigrants who have committed heinous crimes, such as murder. Still, according to data released by U.S. Custom and Border Protection, during his few months as president and with the issuing of the executive order, the amount of illegal border crossings have been reduced.

Immigration Lawyer Amanda Bahena explains that many undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. with a visa, such as a tourist visa or student visa, and then situations force them to stay in the U.S.  Many of these immigrants end up working here to support their families living in difficult situations in their home countries. After they are in the U.S. for 180 days without legal status, they become subject to certain inadmissibility “bars.” These “bars” ban them from re-entering the United States for three to 10 years, depending on the situation. For families, this can be difficult, because it keeps many people who stayed in the U.S. for over 180 days from being able to earn legal status. Other people are unable to apply for any legal status because they have come to the United States unlawfully multiple times.

Veronica crossed into Arizona by crossing the border illegally. Then, she and her daughter came to Sioux Center out of fear of being caught by the authorities. Although Veronica and her daughter escaped deportation in Arizona, fear is constantly with them in all the decisions they make. For instance, they drive with caution at all times as they try to ignore any possibility of being stopped, of being asked the question, “Where are your papers?”

In Sioux County, if an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a crime, authorities communicate the situation to Immigration Custom Enforcement (I.C.E.). ICE may then request for an undocumented immigrant if this person is of interest to the government enforcement body, if the individual has committed a crime, such as murder, or if he or she has been previously deported, returned and committed a crime. If I.C.E is interested in an individual, this person will be picked up in Sioux County by I.C.E. officials, after being released from custody. The fact that Sioux County does not hold undocumented immigrants past the amount of time that they are required to hold an individual has subjected Sioux County to questioning in terms of its policy on addressing immigration issues.

If undocumented immigrants are caught by I.C.E. officials, they are taken in for deportation proceedings. Sometimes it’s possible to have a viable defense in deportation proceedings, such as being a parent to a U.S-born child, but this reasoning does not work all the time.

This reality is harsh for both the parent and the child. “I have not spent a day without my mum,” said a 16-year-old student at Sioux Center Christian high school, and a daughter of an undocumented immigrant, who asked to remain nameless.

“I cannot imagine being without her,” said the teenager.

There are options for immigrants, however. For example, some children who came to the U.S. before they turned 16, and before June 15, 2017, can now apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA, introduced by former president Obama, prevents the deportation of children who did not have a say regarding their entering into the United States, who have been in the U.S. since 2007 and who have not committed serious crimes.

“In Mexico, you do have the opportunities to become better, but it’s just economically, it’s not just well. Here you can become better, but there’s big enough obstacles as an immigrant you have to surpass,” said Veronica.

Her daughter emphasized, “We’re people that want their children to have a better life.”

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Graphic Credit: US Custom Border Protection


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