How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

What about the kids? What can happen when parents are deported

Photo by jrodmanjr/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Several years ago in San Diego, I met a family of three children whose parents had been deported after losing their bid to become legal residents. The kids had, technically, been left in the care of a relative who lived nearby. In reality, they were pretty much on their own, with the eldest, a girl of 16, stepping in as surrogate parent to her siblings, 13 and 9.

This is not an uncommon scenario after the foreign-born parents of U.S. citizen children are deported. Sometimes the parents opt to take their kids with them. Others remain in the U.S. with relatives when other family members can be located, though as with the three kids in San Diego, this works out to varying degrees. But when relatives can't be located or the parents are shuffled off quickly, sometimes into the labyrinthine detention system, there's nowhere for the kids to go.