Home alone

Home alone


Maria's 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie, is sitting slumped in her chair in the garden moaning quietly. Stephanie, a US citizen, has cerebral palsy and is also plagued by high fevers the local doctors can't explain.


Her doctor says it's imperative that she sees a specialist doctor in Corpus Christi, 160 miles away.

But that would involve driving through a Border Patrol immigration checkpoint.

Maria does not dare risk the drive.

"We're scared that her condition is going to deteriorate", said Maria. "But what I'm scared of is that I'll cross a check point and then who's going to take care of my children?"


Almost 2,000 miles from Maria's house in a neighbourhood in San Diego, California, the Duarte family have felt the impact of this policy change.

The four Duarte children were getting ready for school one Tuesday morning in May, when Border Patrol agents arrested both of their parents and took them to an immigrant detention centre.

"We just sat down and cried," said Yarely Duarte, 12.

The first night, Yarely and her twin sister Aracely moved their beds into the same room as their two teenage brothers, for comfort.

Home alone

The oldest brother Francisco, 19, took charge - cooking, buying the food and helping get his younger sisters off to school.

Border Patrol initially accused parents Rosenda and Francisco Duarte Snr of involvement in international human trafficking, but later dropped the accusation. Neither parent has a criminal record.

Rosenda Duarte was released from detention on bail in late June while her case is reassessed. But she and her husband, who is still in detention, still face possible deportation.

Mark Lane, who gives legal advice to other scared immigrants in the community, said he gets 10 to 15 calls a day.

He said: "We had one family that we're dealing with over the last two months. They've taken three separate members of the family. It's happening all over."

Back in Brownsville, Texas, Maria is now preparing to sign custody of her children over to her sister in case she is deported.

She doesn't want to risk her children, Stephanie and Joseph, being left alone, or being put into foster care.

Hundreds of other undocumented parents across America are making alternative custody arrangements for their children, as President Trump's crackdown on undocumented immigrants gets under way.

For decades, neither political party in America has been able to solve the problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Home alone

Many Democrats want to offer the majority who are non-criminals a chance to become US citizens.

Republicans generally oppose this, and many want to see the existing law, which requires the removal of all illegal immigrants, enforced.

"There's not much of a choice when it comes to enforcing the law," said Timothy Robbins, acting chief of staff of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"At times, there are going to be families that are separated. It's very, very difficult especially for the children but the reality is our officers are going to enforce the law."

Watch BBC Panorama: Trump's Fortress America on Monday 17 July on BBC One at 20:30 BST and afterwards on iPlayer.



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