This is the third of three interviews in our Immigration series. The purpose of the series is take a closer look at how national immigration policies are affecting students at Juniata High School. Because of the sensitive legal issues surrounding immigration, the names of the students have been withheld.
The following interview features a student whose father was deported this school year. Aside from some minor editing for grammar and clarity, this is her story in her own words.
Briefly describe your family’s situation.
My father was recently deported to Honduras, and my mother is here without papers. I have two older half-siblings without papers, and then myself and my five younger siblings are U.S. citizens because we were born here. We might all have to move to Honduras if my mother cannot find a place here for us kids to stay and get our education.
What were conditions like in Honduras when your parents came here originally? Have they changed or improved since then?
When my parents came here originally things were pretty bad. They lived in a very poor neighborhood and had little to no education because of the payments needed for public school. Since then things have not improved. Education is worse and many do not believe an education is important. Work is harder to find. Safety each day shrinks and danger rises.
What was the reason behind your father’s deportation?
My father got a visa in 2001 to come to the United States for 3 months, but he stayed after the visa had expired and he did not have documents. He was caught around 2006 for drunk driving and was being monitored by Immigration since then. Between then and now he had stayed out of trouble with the law, but in November of last year ICE agents called him in for a meeting and then detained him.
How much time did you/your family have to prepare for your father’s deportation?
To prepare for my father’s deportation we had no time at all. The day he was held they kept reassuring me and my family that he wouldn’t be deported. We were not allowed to see him while he was being detained. After a few weeks we got a call from my father that he was going to be deported to his home country. We did not expect it, and we didn’t even get the chance to see him before he left.
What is the concern for your family now that he has been sent back to Honduras?
There are many concerns for my family now that my father has been sent back to Honduras. My father was the only one who received income in our house. My mother who now has 6 kids at home and no income has to find a way to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Another concern for my family is that my father’s home country can be a very dangerous place to live; there are many gangs and violence, and laws are not always followed. Since we may be moving there soon, my mother worries about our education and safety.
What is the financial toll of this situation?
My mother paid two lawyers, and neither lawyer did anything to help. We paid for 6 passports and for paperwork that had to be sent back and forth from the U.S to Honduras in order for us to travel there. My mother also has to find a way to pay for heating oil, electricity, sewage, water, rent, and many other bills.
How does this situation affect you and your family emotionally?
This situation affects my family emotionally. We were not prepared for all what’s happening to happen. My mother had a baby who is now 3 month old, and my mom felt very bad because my father never had a chance to be there when he was born but he had always been at every other child’s birth. My mother fell into depression for a while, and it hurt me to see her cry and get very stressed out. My siblings all were very sad for quite a while since this situation affected them, too.
The day my father was detained I was there with him. It was the last time I ever saw him on November 8th of 2017. My father and I had so much faith that everything would go well and nothing wrong would happen. We even had plans to go out to eat after leaving the meeting. While I was waiting for my father, two officers came out to let me know that my father was being detained but to not worry. They said that it would only be a few days, and they kept reassuring me that he wouldn’t get deported. I felt broken inside because I just knew by the look of the officers’ faces that they were lying. I held my tears back, and I called my mother to let her know. After I got home, everything already felt so different without my father. He has always been the very happy person who would make everyone laugh and smile with his dad jokes. I still had faith that in a couple of days he would be back home. After 2 weeks, I came home from school and saw my mother crying. That’s when she let me know that my father had been deported. All of a sudden I got a rush of sadness. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone or doing anything for a few days. At school I couldn’t even concentrate. Now I spend so much time thinking about my father and how everything is so different without him. Since then my grades have increasingly gone down in classes where I would usually do great. My father has always been the one person who would encourage me to do well at school so I can get a great career and give a great example to my siblings. When my father usually came home from work everyday at 4 o’clock, my siblings and I would be waiting for him to give him a huge hug and to tell him about our day. Ever since he got deported, each time it is 4 o’clock, I get so sad and upset because I know that my father won’t be coming through the door that he always came through after work. Everything has been very hard on me now. I remember how my father always told me he couldn’t wait to see me graduate and how he would be very proud to see me be the first one to graduate in the family. He said that was his dream. But now he won’t be able to see me graduate like he had always wanted, and that breaks my heart. I know I will be able to see him soon during the summer, and I am very excited for the day I get to hug him once again.
Did your father or anyone else in your family ever try to gain American citizenship?
No. Money has always been a tough situation. If my parents would’ve had what they needed, such as money, they would’ve tried to gain American citizenship.
What do you wish people knew about immigrant families?
Not all immigrants families are bad people. Some are very hard workers and struggle everyday just to give their children a better life. Life is much harder when you are an immigrant because you face many problems and obstacles. Many immigrant families have difficulty learning English, helping their children succeed in school, finding secure work, and finding a good home. Many immigrant families have a huge appreciation for the U.S. My mother has always told us that we should appreciate the U.S. and never show hatred toward the country, since this country has helped us in many ways.
Have your feelings about the United States changed throughout this experience?
No, my feelings have not changed about the U.S. My family and I have always believed that the U.S is a good country. They help families in need with programs, education is free, and it is very good compared to my family’s home country. It is a very safe country, and life is very different here. My family has always had a love for this country and a huge appreciation, and it hurts them to have to leave this country.