Jessica Orrellana and her Family

Immigration is the most talked-about topic in the 2015 presidential campaign. What should the United States do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country?

Some individuals like Donald Trump believe they should all be deported back to their countries, while others like Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and myself believe they should be given a chance.

Many of these undocumented immigrants were brought to this country as children by their parents. These individuals grew up in the US, made their lives in the US and became accustom to the US culture. This is their HOME. These individuals are weaved into the US culture and have no family or ties to their countries of birth.

Where will these individuals go if deported? What will happen to their families and children in the US?

“Mix families” is a term used to describe families with different legal status. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in the United States we have 17 million families who are mix families. And 4.5 million children who were born in the US have at least one undocumented parent.

These families live in fear of deportation and the traumatic event of separation. No one really thinks about the effects of deportation or maybe they do, but you really don’t know how powerless and afraid this event is, until you experience it yourself.

As a graduate student and a US citizen, I find myself very knowledgeable of laws and procedures in this country. But there is one legal system I don’t seem to agree with or fully understand — United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

My family is a mix family. My household is headed by a Mexican undocumented Immigrant. My [domestic] partner is a self-employed hard worker that provides for our family, while I complete my graduate degree full-time. Like me, there are many other families with the same scenario or perhaps different but very similar.

When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) picked up my partner earlier this month, our worst nightmare had become a reality. Why would ICE pick up a hardworking man who is not out committing crimes or causing safety concerns?

In 2013, ICE removed approximately 438,000 undocumented immigrants. Out of those 438,000, 240,000 were non-criminals who were stopped for driving without a license or for a minor violation.

The Latino community has been racial profiled, and working Latino men have been criminalized. Nearly all of these deportees have been Latino men, creating a crisis in Latino families and communities. Deportations have a large effect on families, forcing children into foster care as their parents are shipped out of the country, and leaving single mothers struggling to make ends meet. The struggle is real; everyday a family is torn apart, a child is left without a parent by our broken immigration system.

Aren’t children supposed to be reared by their parents? What happened to family unity?

 As I sat in shock after receiving the phone call from my partner sitting in ICE detention awaiting deportation, my heart sank. I asked myself, why and how? How would I tell our 10-year-old daughter her father was gone? How would I explain to her, her father will not pick her up from school today or the following days? What would my daughter and I do? How would we live? Where will we go?

These are a few or many of the questions families face when a love one is deported, especially when the love one is the head of the household.

More than ever, a humane immigration reform is needed. ICE cannot continue to tear families apart and leave children without their parents. Having a parent ripped away permanently, without warning, is one of the most devastating and traumatic experiences in human development.

I urge the community to look at this issue from a new lens, from a humane perspective. No child should ever experience the traumatic event of a home raid or the shocking news that his/her father/mother will never make it back from work.

The next time you think of an undocumented immigrant, think about him/her as an individual like you and I. It can be your neighbor, your child’s best friend’s parents or your best friend.

No Mas Deportasiones! No more deportation!


Jessica Orellana is studying for her Master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California.