The first emergency phone call of the morning is the one that wakes her up, and Nora Sandigo, 48, answers one of the three phones she keeps within reach of her bed. “Hello. How can I help?” she says, because someone is always asking for her help. She gets up, pours herself coffee and takes down notes as she listens. “Sebastian. 12. U.S. citizen,” she writes. “Father deported. Mother detained. Drs appointment today, 2:45.”
“Okay, yes. I can do this,” she says, and soon she is in her minivan, sorting through a notebook that contains her to-do list for the day. She has to prepare lunch for 120 children, deliver school supplies to 13 others, drop five off at schools across greater Miami, help find housing for three, take two to doctor appointments, one to a psychologist and one to visit a parent detained for immigration violations.
“Dios mio,” she says, my God, because these are not just things she hopes to get done but things she needs to get done — things she is in fact legally responsible for doing.
For Sandigo, it means the file cabinets in her small office are now stuffed with birth certificates, baby pictures, Social Security cards, passports and notarized forms for 812 children living in 14 states, ranging in age from 9 months to 17 years. Only two of the children live with her, and with Sandigo covering some of the costs, the rest stay with friends or relatives. She does this as a volunteer and often at her own expense, not because she considers herself capable of providing a safety net for 812 children but because no one else does it. The federal government doesn’t track what happens to the children of deported parents, and no state or federal officials monitor how many children Sandigo has or how many guardians like her exist in immigrant communities around the country.
The whole article and more great photos are here: A ‘Band-Aid’ for 800 Children.
The article is three weeks old, but it is still resonating in my mind and I wanted to share it.
These children are US citizens, but their parents are not. Immigration law was changed in 1996 to make it easier to deport undocumented parents of US citizens. As the article says:
Before then, U.S. children had the right to permanent residency for their parents who did not have legal status in the United States, so long as those parents had shown good moral character and lived in the country for at least seven years. But Congress worried that the policy had created its own form of amnesty, encouraging immigrants to come and have children to legalize their status. “Anchor babies,” some called them, and so Congress made a switch: Immigration offenders would no longer be guaranteed protection because of their American children.
This article illustrates the hardships caused by stricter immigration laws. This woman is doing amazing work, but what she really wants to do is change the law back. She needs help.
NPR aired an interview with Nora Sandigo on Sunday morning. You can listen here: