On Edge After Immigration Raids, Families Make Plans For If They Get Split Up
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Back in the U.S. now where immigrant communities around the country are anxious as word spreads of real and rumored deportation operations. Armando Trull of WAMU has the story of one family in Falls Church, Va., that fears being split apart and is preparing for the worst. Please note, for security reasons, only the middle names of family members are used in this story.
ARMANDO TRULL, BYLINE: Juana is fixing breakfast for her family in her two-bedroom apartment in Falls Church. She's a housekeeper from Guatemala. Both she and her husband, who's from Mexico, are undocumented immigrants. They've been living in the mostly Latino neighborhood of Culmore for almost two decades.
JUANA: (Speaking Spanish).
TRULL: Juana shows me her large refrigerator and points out that there's hardly anything in there, even though it used to be filled with fruit and milk. She says that if she gets picked up by immigration, all that food will spoil, and she doesn't want to waste the money.
JUANA: (Speaking Spanish).
TRULL: Speaking in a soft, quavering voice, she says, our concern is when you go outside or go to the store, you don't know if you'll come back. And we worry about our children. Juana says whenever she leaves the home, she prays to a shrine of the Virgen de Guadalupe set up in the living room. There are black garbage bags and boxes scattered throughout the apartment. Both parents and all four children have put valued personal possessions they may want to keep in the bags in case they have to leave the home suddenly.
ANTONY: My mom's been working so hard making everyone their own bag just in case they get deported, like, or passports and everything, yeah.
TRULL: Seventeen-year-old Antony was born in the U.S. He's the oldest.
ANTONY: I feel very worried about my parents if they ever get caught.
TRULL: If that happens, the baby-faced, 11th-grader will have to become the head of the family.
ANTONY: Take responsibility over my sisters and brothers. That makes me feel like everything's on me, like, pressure, and I feel anxiety about that, you know? Yeah.
TRULL: Antony is not the only one feeling the pressure. Ana is 16, also born in the U.S., and she's just as stressed as her older brother.
ANA: I'm just worried mostly because of my siblings because if my mom leaves, I don't know who's going to take care of them because it's going to end up being me and my brother. And we're only teenagers. We haven't even finished high school.
TRULL: The Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations has been working with families that are afraid of deportation. Edgar Aranda-Yanoc is the group's executive director.
EDGAR ARANDA-YANOC: Everywhere that we go, we just - we are seeing a lot of fear. People are very afraid. We are teaching them how to get ready for a likelihood of deportation.
TRULL: Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement visited two homes at the Fairmont Park Apartments in Annandale. That's where I met Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center.
SIMON SANDOVAL-MOSHENBERG: A lot of people are taking to heart the message that you need to start making an emergency plan for what happens if one or, God forbid, both parents are picked up and arrested and deported. And so people are asking us for help in drafting up powers of attorney for their kids, you know, so that someone can take care of their kids on an emergency basis and other documents of that nature.
TRULL: Sandoval-Moshenberg says the Justice Center is trying to sift facts from rumors. I'm Armando Trull. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.