How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Five personal stories of life in mixed-status families

Photo by nunodantas/Flickr (Creative Commons)


What is it like to live in a family in which you're a U.S. citizen, but your spouse, one of your parents, a sibling, an uncle or aunt, even one of your children is undocumented?

During the past week, Multi-American has presented a series of first-person stories from people in families like these. Families of mixed immigration status are surprisingly common. In 2009, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 8.8 million people living in mixed-status families in the United States.

This makes for a conservative estimate, as Pew’s definition was limited to families with unauthorized immigrants and their U.S. citizen children. Even more common are mixed-status extended families, one example being the Kenyan-born family of President Obama, whose undocumented half-uncle was arrested in August, and whose aunt was up for deportation until being granted asylum.

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Life in a mixed-status family: 'It's as if she doesn't exist'

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This week we've been featuring the first-person stories people who live in families of mixed immigration status, families in which some members are U.S. citizens or legal residents and others remain undocumented, often unable to adjust their status.

With the demand for family reunification high and the number of immigrant visas available each year low, especially for hopeful immigrants in countries like Mexico and the Philippines, mixed-status families are common in the United States. But with the risk of deportation always present, family members keep quiet, not revealing why they can't do things other families take for granted.

KPCC’s Public Insight Network has asked people who are willing to share their stories to write in about their experiences, and several have. Among those whose stories have been featured this week was one young woman, the U.S. born child of undocumented parents, who wrote, "Mixed citizenship status within a family causes frustration, uncertainty, secrecy, lies."

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Life in a mixed-status family: 'Frustration, uncertainty, secrecy, lies'

Photo by barnabywasson/Flickr (Creative Commons)


A series of posts that began in August, prompted by the arrest and detention of President Obama's undocumented half-uncle, has explored the prevalence of mixed-status families. These are families composed of a blend of U.S. citizens and/or legal residents and undocumented immigrants, often living under one roof. There might be undocumented parents, grandparents, siblings, children, or as with the First Family, aunts and uncles.

Very often, the family members who are undocumented have have tried to adjust their immigration status but can't, even through marriage. And so these families remain mixed in their status, unable to do many of the things other families take for granted.

What is it like to live in a family in which your spouse, your parents, a sibling or other relative is undocumented? A post last week featured a mini-essay from one reader, a U.S. citizen who has unsuccessfully tried to adjust her husband's status. She wrote about how simple things, like adding him to her employer-sponsored health plan, are impossible to do. Since then, KPCC's Public Insight Network has asked others to share their stories about a phenomenon that is surprisingly common, but seldom discussed outside the family.

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A week’s worth of reactions to the House hearings on Islam

Photo by waltarrrrr/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A view of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, CA, November 2009

The news of last Friday's earthquake in Japan all but obscured what had been some of the biggest news of the previous day, the first hearing of a planned series in the House Committee on Homeland Security on the “extent of radicalization” among American Muslims, led by committee chair and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.

Muslim groups and other minority organizations condemned the hearings as xenophobic; King defended them as “absolutely essential.” Prior to the first hearing March 10 (the next one has not been scheduled), KPCC’s Public Insight Network sent out a series of questions to members of its audience, inviting Muslims and people of all faiths to share their take on the hearings.

By last Friday morning, the House hearing had quickly fallen off the news radar, but people continued to respond. The majority were Muslim, though Christian and Jewish respondents answered the questions as well. Here are some excerpts from their responses.

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Undocumented and afraid, part 2

Photo by Bryan Goseline/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Students taking in a lecture, October 2007

In my previous post, I explained my rationale in going forward with a young undocumented college student's story after he requested that he remain anonymous.

The student had sent an e-mail to KPCC through the station's Public Insight Network, which allows the public to confidentially share their personal stories related to topics in the news. I'd asked him if he would be willing to participate in a Q&A for the Multi-American blog. He agreed, but later asked if I could publish his answers without using his name.

I briefly wondered if I should simply find another student's story to publish, one of the many who are coming out about their immigration status as they campaign for the DREAM Act. But then, would passing on this wary kid in Claremont, and on his fear, mean passing on part of the story?

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