VICE (2013) s06e11 Episode Script

Separated by Birth

1 This week on "Vice": The American children left behind after their parents' deportation.
It means our job is really to protect public safety and taking a criminal off the street is how we do that.
If they planted roots, you gotta rip the roots out.
Unfortunately.
So this is where the line starts for kids who are U.
S.
citizens but live in Mexico, who attend school in New Mexico, in the United States.
The Trump administration's tough stance towards the undocumented in the U.
S.
has ignited a fierce debate across the country.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions' zero tolerance policy has empowered authorities to crackdown on illegal border crossings, meaning children are often being separated from their own families.
Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.
While President Trump signed an executive order this week to now keep detained families together, the zero tolerance policy remains in effect.
More than 2,300 kids have been taken from their parents since last month, and inside the country, U.
S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement or I.
C.
E has been issued new directives.
They have been ordered to not only target undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but to step up the apprehension of those with no criminal histories.
Krishna Andavolu was granted rare access with I.
C.
E to see how this escalation is impacting immigrant families.
It's just before dawn, and we're in suburban Atlanta, and we're about to ride with I.
C.
E as they do a targeted enforcement.
All right, good morning team.
We're going to be serving a criminal arrest warrant today.
Please be aware that the subject has felony convictions for carrying a pistol without a license and carrying a concealed weapon.
The subject also has misdemeanor convictions of fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement officers, two DUIs, reckless driving, and several driving without a license as well.
We spoke to the head of I.
C.
E.
's Atlanta field office, whose region has seen a 52% rise in total arrests during the first year of the Trump administration.
On these missions, do you sometimes encounter people who aren't necessarily a target but who you end up arresting anyway? - All the time.
- All the time.
Why? You know, if the targeted individual is being accompanied by somebody and they turn out to be illegally in this country, once the officers establish that, they can take enforcement action against that individual.
Under this administration, I would say much more than the last, that our officers have the discretion.
Police! Police with a warrant, come to the door! We're outside of Atlanta in a trailer park, and I.
C.
E is effectuating a warrant to arrest someone who is in this country illegally.
They're knocking on the door, you can tell they're speaking in Spanish, but no one seems to be answering.
Come on out here, show me your hands! - Show me your hands! - Police, come out, come out, come out! Situations like this have become increasingly common across the United States, and not only arrests of people with prior criminal convictions.
President Obama directed I.
C.
E to prioritize violent offenders and recent arrivals, but President Trump's directive has widened the net for arrests to include all undocumented immigrants encountered, including those with no prior criminal record.
In February 2017, Matthew Albence, who leads I.
C.
E enforcement and removal operations nationwide, implemented president Trump's executive order by giving the directive that officers, quote, "will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.
" What do you think are some of the maybe biggest misconceptions about the role that I.
C.
E plays in enforcing immigration laws in the country? I think the biggest misconceptions surround how we actually go about doing our jobs.
We engage in targeted enforcement operations.
When we go out to make an arrest, we know who we are going for because we've done an investigation into that individual to make a determination as to whether or not that individual is here in the country lawfully and if he is a public safety threat or a national security threat or an immigration violator.
The majority of the people that we go after and that we actually arrest every year, they've been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense.
Meaning they're here illegally, which is a crime in the first place, and then they commit another criminal violation on top of that.
What about people who haven't committed that second crime? You do not need to commit another crime for us to take an enforcement action against you.
You made that initial crime when you crossed the border illegally.
Under the prior administration, there were a lot of individuals who were here unlawfully that we were not allowed to take an enforcement action against.
We were actually prohibited from taking an enforcement action against an individual who had committed a federal violation.
That no longer happens.
Some people might say now that the gloves are off, so to speak.
How do you respond to that kind of idea of, you know, what I.
C.
E is doing? If they're referring to the fact that I.
C.
E officers are now able to enforce the law in the way Congress passed it and do so in accordance with the oath of office that they took, then yes, we are going to enforce the law equitably and fairly, and we're able to do so.
Do you take any consideration as to whether or not they have family left over here in the country? Or maybe specifically, if they have kids who are U.
S.
citizens because they were born here? Our responsibility is to execute the law in the manner it was written.
Those individuals who have United States citizen children can make a determination whether they want their children to remain here, or have their children accompany them or join them into whatever country they're being removed to.
Ricardo left Mexico for the U.
S.
16 years ago and was first deported there in 2011.
He returned illegally five years later an offense that could lead to a permanent ban from the United States.
In April of this year, he was arrested and released for a DUI by local authorities a charge that tipped off I.
C.
E and set in motion the immigration arrest that we witnessed.
He's currently being held at a detention facility in Georgia.
When do you expect to see your husband again? And can you tell me about the health condition that your youngest child has? Can you describe your immigration status at the moment? I.
C.
E didn't arrest Erika during this enforcement action, but in the first year of the Trump administration, arrests of non-criminals nationwide have more than doubled, impacting many families that include U.
S.
-born American children.
And while undocumented kids brought to the U.
S.
as children but allowed to remain in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program continue to dominate the immigration debate, these young American citizens are almost entirely overlooked.
Earlier this year, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware put forth one of four bipartisan bills on immigration reform.
None of the bills advanced.
How do you feel about how I.
C.
E these days is just going after anyone who in any sense might be deportable? I think what that does is it serves to destabilize families, to terrorize people who are here and contributing and working hard and raising their children.
And it means we're not prioritizing the deportation of dangerous criminals.
I agreed with setting, as a priority for deportation, a focus on folks who are committing crimes, who are harming other people, who are disrupting their communities through violent crime.
I think to instead change to a prioritization which is anybody who's here who's out of legal status in any way can be deported at any time, without resolving what might be the pathway towards legal compliance or citizenship for those who are contributing to our community, is a truly extreme position.
What the Trump administration is settling for is random and occasional seizures and deportation of people who are contributing to society, working hard, paying taxes, and previously had no reason to think that they could be deported because their only crime had been an immigration violation.
Period.
Now, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are facing an imminent threat of deportation, and more than 4 million American-born children are in danger of losing one or both of their parents.
So we're here in south Florida to meet Nora Sándigo.
She's an immigration rights advocate who works with families who have fathers and mothers who are undocumented and children who are U.
S.
born.
We're in front of an immigration detention facility where a family has been waiting on word of the father who is an undocumented immigrant who has been slated for deportation.
And how long has his family been camped out here - in front of the facility? - Today is nine days.
So for nine days, they've been sleeping outside the facility? - With the child also, with Luisito.
- Why? Because they are trying to convince Homeland Security.
Nora is an American citizen herself, and works exclusively with undocumented immigrants she says have no prior criminal record.
The rise in immigration arrests has families afraid to leave their homes to do even basic errands.
Ah, you're going to help me.
Yeah, nice! Okay, let's see what's a good price, like oil.
Oil? All right, let's get some oil.
But we need like 15 more.
15? Of these? One, two, three, four.
We're gonna need more carts.
- Potatoes? - Like 50.
- 50 bags of potatoes? - Yes.
- Yes.
- Explain to me why you feel compelled to do this.
Are more people looking for your help these days? - Yes.
Oh, yes.
- When did it start? When Mr.
Trump came to the White House.
- I will bring the car.
- You'll bring the car? I'll start moving this to the door.
- Is that it? - That's it.
Nora and her team deliver boxes of food and other essentials to 50 families as often as four times a week.
Nora! Elena and her husband are now living in fear after coming to the United States from Guatemala.
Can you tell me about your situation with regards to deportation and immigration? Are you able to make ends meet financially? Do you fear being separated from your children? Fearing the threat of deportation, Elena and her husband named Nora the appointed guardian of their children.
And they aren't the only ones.
In cases when both parents are deported, as the appointed guardian, Nora helps place the children with relatives, or sometimes takes them in.
So we're at Nora Sándigo's ranch.
So all these kids you see here, they're all Americans, but their parents might be deported.
So many of these people here are actually going to sign up today to give legal guardianship of their children to Nora in case they get deported.
Wow.
Why do these parents feel the need to sign a power of attorney form over to you for their children? So do people come to your house, do they actually sign the power of attorney? They do that here? Yes.
Martha came to the U.
S.
from Mexico twenty years ago.
While she's undocumented, her seven children are American citizens.
Martha's husband was deported a few years ago, but the increase in I.
C.
E apprehensions over the last year has drastically amplified her family's terror.
Do you find yourself sort of looking out the window to see if I.
C.
E is around the corner? Have you had conversations about what you would do as a family if you were also deported? Martha's children are U.
S.
citizens by birth under the 14th amendment.
But they have very limited options under the nation's immigration laws to protect their parents from removal.
Do you guys follow the news at all? Not really.
Do you feel like your rights as an American citizen are being respected? At the moment, not really.
- How does that make you feel? - It's just like upsetting.
Are you afraid that your mom might be the next person to get deported? What does that do to your day to day? Just really not think about it, just hope that she'll be able to come home every single day.
This fear has become a reality for children across the United States with those who follow their parents after deportation joining what's estimated to be more than half a million American-born kids now living in Mexico.
Eulises is a 12-year-old U.
S.
citizen who lives in Puerto Palomas.
But while his mother is barred from re-entering the United States for 20 years, Eulises travels to the U.
S.
every weekday to attend a public school in New Mexico.
So this is where the line starts for kids who are U.
S.
citizens but live in Mexico who attend school in New Mexico in the United States.
So every day, about 850 kids make this journey across this international border just to go to school.
What was it like to grow up your whole life in the U.
S.
but then all of a sudden have to move to Mexico? In U.
S.
, I felt comfortable, secure, and happy because there was opportunities.
There's, it's just like, I struggle.
Do you feel different? I feel separate.
I don't know how to explain this.
I feel like in Mexico, it's my home, the United States is my home, it's different just going to home to home.
Does it feel like you live two different lives? Exactly like that.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
We spoke to superintendent Dr.
Arsenio Romero about how kids living in Mexico can get a public education in the United States.
What prompted the decision to kind of say, you know what, it's a border, it's an international border, but we're gonna let kids - who live in Palomas come to our schools? - Right, well, all the students that come over from Palomas are American citizens.
So they have, in my mind, the right to be able to be educated through our public school system and to be able to be given that kind of world class education.
Do you take flack for that? I do, I do.
Because, you know, every legislative session, when we are going through the funding discussions for public schools, this always comes up, about all the students that are coming from Palomas, and so I have to go to Santa Fe quite often to be able to talk to our state legislators about why we should continue to do this.
And the reason we should continue to do this is because these students are going to end up part of our community.
They all do.
How do you respond to criticism of taxpayers from New Mexico who say "listen, I don't want to pay for the education of kids who don't live in America?" Pay now or pay later.
- We want these students to be productive citizens.
- What do you mean by that? Well, if we're not able to educate these students now while we have them, we want them to be able to grow up and get jobs and be productive for the community and support the community to where they can do this on their own.
They're not going to rely on the government, they're not gonna rely on any kind of handout.
They can take care of themselves, whether they live right here in our community or they move somewhere else in the United States, because the opportunity is here for them.
While Deming Public Schools offer these students a chance to attend school in the U.
S.
, the traumatic effects of family separation are hard to shake.
Where do you live now? In Palomas.
What happened? Why'd you move there? It's cause my dad is fixing his papers.
- He's fixing his papers? - Yeah.
So you had to move from New Mexico to Mexico? What do you remember, what was it like? It was hard because we lived in Hatch and my dad lived in Juarez.
So it was hard to have your dad in Juarez - and you living in New Mexico? - Yeah.
In some senses, it's been easier to be living with your dad? I think it's easier to have a better relationship with your parents.
When you're living with them? Yeah, I can understand that.
Did you understand the reason why he had to move? No, I didn't.
What do you remember thinking about? Well, it was really hard because I was a little girl, so I didn't know what to think.
The increase in arrests and interior deportations affects a growing number of Americans like Nahima everyday.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.
C.
, the same partisan debate rages on, as Congress has been unable to reach any legislative deal on immigration.
President Trump is trying to force his unpopular, hardline immigration agenda down the throats of the American people.
It's crazy.
The dumbest laws, as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.
We asked Senator Coons why Congress is gridlocked when it comes to resolving this crisis.
As long as you've got the head of the department of justice and the president of the United States in a very extreme position on immigration, I have a hard time seeing how we're going to make compromise, how we're going to make progress here in the next couple of years.
To try and actually deport 11 million people from the United States would require a deportation force of a cost and size that I don't think Americans will ever accept.
And a searching intervention in every aspect of American life that I also don't think we'll accept.
How do you respond to people who say I.
C.
E is ripping apart families? Every law enforcement agency in this country arrests people on a daily basis that has families.
Every individual that commits a crime is one that's putting themselves in the position to get arrested and removed from their family.
What do you think about the government? The government? I feel grateful for them.
The United States has a lot of opportunities for Americans so I do have a lot of opportunities.
I want to be a marine.
Take me through that, why do you want to be a marine? I want to be a marine because I want to protect my country, not just serve my country, protect my country.
You say my country, like the U.
S.
is your country.
Yes, it's, like, my home.
Donald Trump thinks we're just criminals.
Well, he's definitely wrong.
Immigrants come here to have a better life, to help their family with food and money.
What would it mean to you if you were able to sort of cross the border with your mom? If she could pass with me, I would feel amazed that she could pass once again.
I would be happy.