Citizen children experience trauma after separation from immigrant parents
December 26, 2012
By Rocío Romero for El Nuevo Sol de California State University, Northridge
U.S.-born María Vasques was just six years old when her mother Edith Barrios kissed her goodbye. She told María that she was off to work, and she hurried out the door dragging a suitcase.
María’s mother told her a white but enduring lie. That day, she abandoned the two bedroom apartment in Canoga Park to El Salvador, her mother’s native land, and didn’t come back for four years.
“I didn’t understand (why she left),” twenty-five-year-old María says with tears running down her puffy cheek.
María’s mother, who was then undocumented, had fears of being deported so she left the country in 1994 with hopes that a family member would sponsor her.
Barrios left during a time when immigration tensions were high. California voters had approved Proposition 187, the “Save our State” Initiative. The law barred undocumented immigrants from the state’s public education system, health care and other social services.
But in 1999, Prop. 187 was challenged in a legal suit and was found unconstitutional by federal court.
Still, immigration policy continues to be a problem for thousands of U.S. children and their immigrant parents.
From July 1, 2010, to Sept. 31, 2012, almost 23 percent of all 204,810 deportations were issued to parents with citizen children, according to federal data searched and published by Colorlines Magazine a publication of the Applied Research Center, a think tank that promotes racial justice.