Immigrants who entered the United States illegally are paying close attention to the deportation policies of the Trump administration. More and more it appears that those who have committed crimes are not the only ones who are a priority for removal.
Many of the unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. have children who are U.S. citizens. And they worry about what might happen to their kids if they are deported.
Verónica Avila Zavala is a mother of two – a nine-year old girl and a seven-year old boy. The girl is a firecracker – Avila Zavala says. Not the boy – he is normally very mellow.
Last November, tragedy struck the family. Avila Zavala’s life partner, the father of her children, was murdered. He was deported at the end of October and she says by November, a local gang in his small town of Southern Mexico had killed him. Avila Zavala says he had only been in Mexico for two weeks.
Now her biggest fear is that she could be deported too.
“I am afraid,” she says. “if I am deported who’s going to take care my kids? The state? The foster care system?”
That is the fear in the hearts of many, many Texans. It’s estimated the unauthorized immigrant population in the state is about one and a half million people.
Since so many could be affected by new parameters for deportations, the Consulate of Mexico and other non-profits are providing law clinics for parents across the state. The idea is to help immigrants fill out and notarize powers of attorney on behalf of their children
At the Mexican Consulate this past Friday, attorney Daniella Lyttle told parents the documents are not living wills, and they are not custody orders.
“It’s really not a long-term document. It’s meant to be a band-aid until a court order is in place. They still need to go through the court if custody needs to be established. This is just a something in place to have in the event of a very quick emergency,” he says.
Say for instance, the parents are picked-up by immigration agents while at work. The power of attorney allows someone the parent trusts to pick up their children from school. Or, if the kids were to get sick, the power of attorney allows the new guardians to make medical decisions on behalf of the children.
Magdalena Tercero was waiting in line outside the consulate. She’s a mother of three who came to the clinic with her friend Heather Hoff. Tercero asked Hoff to be her children’s guardian in case she and her husband are deported.
“She’s the only person I’d trust with my children,” Tercero says in Spanish. “Because I don’t have relatives in the United States.“
Both women are clearly shaken by the step they’re about to take. But they’re certain signing that power of attorney is the right thing to do.
Tercero says that as a child, she was a close friend of Hoff’s husband. So, when he married Hoff, Tercero and Hoff immediately became friends too. The grown-ups are inseparable and so are their children.
“They play a lot together too. We hang out and our kids always play together,” Hoff says.
If the Terceros were to be deported, Hoff and her husband would be taking in three children on top of the two they already have.
“They’ve done a lot for us – so, it’s – I’m sure they would do the same for us if the roles were switched,” Hoff says.
If – like Tercero and like Avila Zavala – you know someone in need of a power of attorney for their children, call your nearest consular office. And beware of gougers. Reports out of California indicate that unscrupulous attorneys and notaries are charging up to $250 for powers of attorney that ought to be free. They’re a parent’s right under chapter 34 of the Texas Family Code.