It’s been a refrain this round of immigration marches and rallies: Stop separating families.
A midst the chanting and the sea of posters at a downtown rally earlier this Spring, eleven-year-old Daniel Betancourt stood with a sign:
“Path to citizenship equals safe borders.”
Daniel’s parents were the first thing that was on his mind when asked why he was there, marching.
“To help my parents get their papers, so that they don’t get sent back to Mexico.”
Daniel said that he worries about that a lot, even though he doesn’t know of any friends that have been separated from their parents. Daniel was born here, like his other three siblings, and they’re all U.S. Citizens. His mother’s undocumented. She came illegally from Mexico almost 20 years ago. And one of Enriqueta Betancourt’s major concerns is what would happen if she and her husband — who are both undocumented — get deported.
“You know police or something captures us or something like that, we just tell our relatives to grab our kids, you know, help us with them. Or you know, take care of our house or properties, or whatever we have.”
Some estimates cite that there are around 400,000 undocumented immigrants in the Houston area. Frances Valdez an immigration attorney with Neighborhood Centers Inc. says that most families that she works with don’t have any form of contingency plan for what happens if the parents are picked up.
“I guess I would actually argue that people, for the most part, don’t think about it. Or if they do, they don’t really want to think about it. I would say the majority of people that I have encountered actually don’t make any plan. And that’s the main part of the problem.”
Valdez advises clients to plan, from making a power of attorney to assigning someone to pick the kids up from school if a parent is detained. The Betancourts have at least talked to their children about their uncertain position. And it’s a reality their eldest son, sixteen-year-old Ruben Betancourt lives with.
“If my parents were to be deported as well. It’d probably be up to me to take care of my brother and sister. So like, I wonder how that would be to take the place of my mom and my dad.”
Ruben’s still a teenager, but he feels the weight of his family on his shoulders sometimes. There’s this one thing that his father says, that keeps on replaying in Ruben’s head.
“‘Ruben, you’re pretty soon going to become a man.’ How do I know how to become a man? I need his guidance.”
Ruben doesn’t want to become a man without his father around.
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