By Maria Peña
Many children in the United States are preparing the lists of presents they want from Santa, but Eliza Morales and Anthony Hoz-Peña have just one wish: an end to deportations and the separation of families.
Morales, 19, and Hoz-Peña, 12, will be among dozens of children and teenagers who on Wednesday will deliver to Congress some 10,000 letters asking, as a Christmas gift, for the United States to stop the suffering of the immigrant community.
While the majority of kids in the United States spend their childhoods playing with toys, being outside and taking care of their schoolwork, Morales and Hoz-Peña have had to suffer the absence of a parent because immigration authorities have deported or detained them.
Morales was born in Los Angeles and her mother was deported in 2008 after she was picked up when she went to get Eliza at school. Eliza did not know anything about what had happened to her mother until she called from Tijuana, Mexico.
“There is no feeling that compares with what I felt that night worse than death. I felt completely alone and empty,” says Eliza in one of the letters that will be delivered on Wednesday.
Hoz-Peña was born in Florida and in his letter he describes the fear and the sadness that he felt when his siblings told him that his father was transferred to a jail nine months ago.
“I miss his kiss before going to school, eating together or going out for a walk as a family. It’s not fair that you, the congressmen, can see your children daily and I only see my father every 15 days, if I’m lucky enough to be able to see him because the jail is very far away, in another county,” the boy says.
The stories of these young people are not isolated cases: according to a report released in March by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 46,686 undocumented parents with at least one U.S.-born child were deported in the first half of 2011.
A study by the Applied Research Center entitled “Shattered Families,” found that more than 5,000 U.S.-born children of immigrants have been living in foster care since their parents were deported.
The report predicted that 15,000 other youngsters will suffer the same tragedy over the next five years if no change is made to the government’s deportation policy.
According to the Center, about 5.5 million children born in the United States have at least one parent who is undocumented.
For Mariana Viturro, assistant director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, these cases show the urgency of achieving comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
“The options for children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents are few. If they don’t have a relative who takes care of them or a legal guardian, they end up in foster care, and that causes them very serious trauma,” Viturro told Efe.
The family is a sacred element in U.S. society - at least that is what politicians say in an election season - and, this Christmas, Congress should pay attention to the demand of the young people who in these 10,000 letters are asking for the unification of their families.