Q COSTA RICA – Parents of children, U.S. citizens, who immigrated illegally to the United States fearing deportation under the Trump administration are seeking advice in securing care for their children in the event both are removed from the United States.
A report by Reuters says the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) has been receiving about 10 requests a day from parents looking for temporary guardianship for their children.
Jorge Mario Cabrera, spokesperson for the CHIRLA said last year the group received about two requests a month for guardianship letters and notarization services.
In Washington D.C., the National Lawyers Guild, at the request of a non-profit organization, put out a call this week for volunteer attorneys to help immigrants fill out forms granting friends and relatives the right to make legal and financial decisions in their absence.
In Costa Rica, among the community that has relatives living abroad there is fear for their loved one. Speaking to several Costa Ricans, including a Nicaraguan who has a cousin living illegal in the U.S., the question is always the same, “what do you think will happen to them?”, asking of me as I have the answer.
Although for Costa Ricans the money sent home is not as significant for Nicaraguans, which I suspect if a worry for them, if their relative is deported.
The Costa Rican population in the United States at the 2010 Census was 126,418, representing the fourth smallest Hispanic group in the United States and the smallest Central American population.
Costa Rican populations are prominent in the New York Metropolitan Area, especially in North Central New Jersey. There are also sizable groups of Costa Ricans in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, South Florida metropolitan area, and Lincoln County, North Carolina.
Not all arrived in the country legally, many years later continue to remain in the country, with children born in the U.S., in a ‘irregular immigration status’.
One of those is Melvin Arias, 39, a New Jersey landscaper from Costa Rica who entered the United States illegally 13 years ago. He told Reuters he decided, after hearing news of stepped-up immigration enforcement, to take legal precautions for his five-year-old son and six-month old daughter, who are both U.S. citizens.
But when he asked for help from two different lawyers, Arias was told preparing legal documents would cost him between $700 and $1,250. He is looking for a cheaper way to obtain the paperwork he needs.
“If there comes a time when both of us have a problem, I want there to be a responsible person who can come and get [the children] for us, to take them to wherever we might be,” Arias said.
‘WORRIED ALL THE TIME’
Another example of the “worry” is that of Seidy Martinez and her husband Jose Gomez, in rural New Jersey, who have begun the difficult conversations with their 10-year-old daughter about what would happen if her parents were to be deported.
Martinez, a house cleaner, and Gomez, who works on a horse farm, are both from Honduras. They entered the United States illegally, and do not have papers, unlike their daughter, who has been granted asylum, and their 3-year-old son, a U.S. citizen.
“Now we are worried all the time. We don’t have anything that would allow us to stay here,” said Martinez. “Our main concern is what will happen to our children.” She has told her daughter that she could live with her aunt in Miami and is considering drafting paperwork that would give her relative some legal rights if she and her husband are deported. The 10-year old tries to comfort her mother. “She tells me, ‘Mami, tranquila. Don’t be afraid, I am scared too but don’t worry everything will be OK.'”
‘IF MOM DOESN’T COME HOME’
Rebecca Kitson, an immigration attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, told Reuters she advises her increasingly nervous clients to have the kind of conversations Martinez and her husband are having with their children.
“If Mom doesn’t come home by a specific time, who do [the kids] call?” said Kitson, urging parents to be specific in their instructions to their children.
Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a Washington-based non-profit, said that while putting contingency plans in place is a good idea, he does not think the level of fear is justified.
According to Capps, during the President Barack Obama administration, the likelihood of both parents being deported was slim. He doubts there will be a huge shift under President Donald Trump toward deporting both parents.
“The odds are still very low but not as low as they were – and this is just the beginning of the administration,” he said.
According to a 2016 study by MPI, about five million children under the age of 18 are living with at least one parent who is in the country illegally. Most of the children, 79%, were U.S. citizens, the study found.