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As ICE Raids Loom, One Connecticut Family Struggles To Keep Things Normal

Keith Allison
Creative Commons

Families in Connecticut and across the country who are here illegally are bracing for raids this weekend, as agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, are expected to target some 2,000 people with deportation orders in at least 10 cities.

Even though the names of Connecticut cities have not been circulated as targets, families here are still worried about being separated.

Anna counts her family among them.

She came to the United States from Mexico when she was 14. Her father was a government employee in her home country, and went missing when she was nine. She never saw him again, and her mother crossed the border to start a new life with her four children.

"We were scared over there,” Anna said. “That's why we come to this country."

Anna's now in her early 30s. Eventually she was accepted into the program known as DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA came into existence under former President Barack Obama’s administration, and the program allows people who came to the U.S. as children to remain here, as long as they meet certain conditions.

Anna's mother, however, remains here illegally, and now, there's a deportation order for her mom.

"She's working right now, but she's nervous,” Anna said. “She's like, 'I don't know what's gonna happen. I leave my house, but I don't know if I come back'."

Anna’s mom is 60, and works 50 hours a week on a farm. One time she went to work and ICE agents were waiting for her.

This story is only using first names because the family members fear for their safety. Documents shared with Connecticut Public Radio by Anna’s attorney support her story.

Anna said she doesn't feel safe either, even though she's protected under DACA. President Donald Trump has sent mixed messages about his intentions for the DACA program, and Anna said it's put her in a strange sort of limbo.

"Sometimes they say, 'No he's gonna take down... DACA’,” Anna said. “Sometimes he's, 'No, DACA is OK.' I mean, you know, I'm not stable right now, too."

If she and her husband were deported, she said she'd want her kids to stay here, where they have better opportunities. All four of her children are U.S. citizens. But then, she wondered, who'd take care of them?

Her teenage daughter Daisy said it's hard to think about.

"It's scary, because I don't know where I'd end up right now,” Daisy said. “And I don't know how I would survive without my mom, or without my family. So like, being separated from them -- I just can't do that. I get nervous, I tend to like, I can't think straight, or I get really upset."

Immigrant activists have been drawing attention to a variety of problems that stem from the threat of ICE raids. Notably, people don’t tend to seek needed services -- such as law enforcement or healthcare -- when things go wrong, because they’re afraid they’ll get caught.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has announced legislation that would block enforcement actions at places like schools, hospitals and places of worship. ICE traditionally has not targeted those locations, but many immigrants here illegally have sought refuge in places like churches, andlater faced six-figure fines from ICE. Advocates say those are intimidation tactics to scare people into turning themselves in to face deportation.

The raids this weekend are slated for Sunday, but could happen anytime. Anna and her family are going to try their best to act like it's just another day. They'll be going to a birthday party.

"Saturday is like a normal day for me,” Anna said, “because I have a birthday party and I have to go. To, get the mind… [to] try to be normal." 

Her daughter, Daisy, agreed, but said no matter what, the thought of an ICE raid will be somewhere in her thoughts.

"I'm trying not to overthink it as much during this whole weekend, and like, for me just live a normal life,” Daisy said. “But it will still be like, a little, like, in the back of my mind."

The ICE raids are happening as immigrant detention facilities have been overcrowded, and reports of inhumane living conditions have caused widespread outcry for changes.

The state of Connecticut offers a toolkit for families concerned about separation. It's available in nine languages and includes information on legal assistance and how to develop a child care plan.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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