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Weekend Read: What happens when mom is deported?

Here’s what Donald Trump said about immigrants less than two weeks before he was elected: “We have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out.”

But, as a federal judge in Hawaii wrote last week, “even the ‘good hombres’ are not safe” under Trump’s new immigration dragnet.

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt was referring to 43-year-old Andres Magana Ortiz, who immigrated to the United States in 1989. In the 28 years he’s been here, Ortiz has worked his way up from picking coffee to overseeing 15 coffee farms, in addition to the one he owns and operates himself.

"When you get a guy like Andres who's a model citizen, been in business for years, pays taxes and is one of the heavy hitters in the coffee industry here, you're shooting yourself in the foot and you're shooting down the Kona coffee business," Ortiz’s business partner, Brian Lindau, told Hawaii News Now.

But it’s Ortiz’s three children, not his business, who would suffer the most from his deportation.

"I can't imagine having no dad with me," says 12-year-old Hector.

"My biggest fear is my family being separated," says 14-year-old Paola.

That’s what happened to the Marin siblings when their mother, Gloria, was deported in Arizona. Unlike the Ortizes, the Marin family was a single-parent household. When Evelyn, Yesi, Angel, and Briza came home from school, they found a hole in the wall, couches overturned, and their mother gone. They didn’t know where she was — or who would take care of them.

“The thing was to stay together, no matter how bad everything was,” Yesi told Lizzie Presser, who wrote about their struggle to reunite with their mother for The California Sunday Magazine.

For almost two years, the Marin siblings managed to do exactly that. They bounced from a home where all four shared a single mattress to another where they were left alone without food. They stopped going to school. Angel got in fights. Yesi started having panic attacks. Briza began talking only in one-word sentences, “like a robot.” Evelyn stole enough groceries to keep them going, making dinner with Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries crushed over soup.

Only when Yesi, then 16, went into labor did child welfare workers take the Marin siblings into custody. In 2012, they became four of the estimated 5,100 kids in state custody whose parents have been detained or deported.

That number has only risen in the years since the Marins became foster children. The system today is no more equipped to accommodate children like them than it was when they entered it. In 2017, Presser describes a bureaucratic no-man’s-land, in which children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents have been deported, are “often isolated in a foster care system that doesn’t know how to get them back to parents outside the U.S.” She writes:

These children are caught between the immigration and the child welfare systems. No clear policy exists for these kids, and reunification can drag on for years. When the cases do reach the final stages in family court, children are often faced with an impossible decision: stay in the state they call home without family or move in with a parent they haven’t seen, in a country they do not know.

Under a Trump administration that seems intent on deporting people with no criminal record, it is likely that more children will face the impossible choice the Marin siblings did — and the choice the Ortiz children are afraid they might have to.

That’s why we recently launched the Southeastern Immigrant Freedom Initiative. We’re enlisting hundreds of private attorneys who will work free of charge to protect the due process rights of every immigrant held in a detention facility in the region.

We know that families are on the line.

The Editors.

P.S. Here are a few more long-reads we think are valuable this week:

SPLC's Weekend Reads are a weekly summary of the most important reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequity, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive Weekend Reads every Saturday morning.