NOGALES, Ariz. — U.S. citizens can be deported, so says the law, if their non-citizen parents are deported and they are under 18 years of age.
That’s what almost happened to Maria, one of my students, and her 10-year old brother. Keeping her spot at our school was so important to them that when her mom was deported they decided to leave Maria, then a high school junior, and her brother here.
Her mom was making pretty good money cleaning the houses of Anglos in Nogales, Arizona, where a domestic cleaning-lady employment underground thrives. Most Nogales professionals pay about $50 for a full day of cleaning. Usually once a housekeeper who can be trusted is found she stays with the same family for years.
We all hire these wonderful workers and in this win-win deal we get a trusted helper and they get paid under the table, usually with a ride home. Anyway, the old joke is true that having housework help is cheaper than marriage counseling.
Maria didn’t show up to class for a week, then one day after school, during tutoring, she came to my class and asked if we could talk privately. I asked the other students to leave and she told me the story.
The school had begun to call home and the apartment manager was wondering where mom was. If the truth were discovered, Maria and her bother would be deported and she would lose the whole semester in the last three weeks of school.
With the help of a trusted school counselor, we quickly got her transferred to the “alternative” school where they didn’t ask questions. The regular school stopped calling and mom was able to return by paying a pollero. They have resumed their lives, but will continue to live in fear of possible deportation.
Even with no mom, especially with no mom, Maria demonstrated the power and importance of education for the children of those who clean the houses of the more affluent persons already established in this country.