LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — President Donald Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration has forced many undocumented immigrants to live in the shadows.
A mother of six who agreed to talk to CBS2’s Jennifer Kastner only if her identity was not revealed is among them.
For the purpose of this story, she will be referred to as Lisa. It took months before she agreed to be interviewed and share her daily life, which is filled with fear and anxiety.
Lisa said every time she and her family go anywhere, they always pray in the car first – that they won’t get stopped by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Kastner rode with Lisa as she went to pick up three of her children from school. On the way back, they went to a 99 Cents Only store to pick up some items. All their stops are usually quick to buy only basic necessities.
Lisa said she has a license, auto registration, insurance and no criminal record. But she still panics when she is on the road and does not take her kids to a park or anywhere else where they can run the risk of being detained and eventually deported.
The 38-year-old mother said her network of undocumented mothers are keenly aware if immigration officers are in the neighborhood as they keep each other informed of ICE activities.
According to ICE, the majority of target fugitives have serious criminal backgrounds. But agents also arrest undocumented immigrants who have no criminal records, which has been fueling fears that families are being torn apart solely over illegal status in the United States.
“We are good people. We want to do good stuff in this country and have better life,” Lisa said.
Lisa’s husband is also in the country illegally. The couple illegally crossed from Mexico almost 20 years ago. They and their six children, who were born in the U.S., are temporarily living in a motel room.
He works overnights as a cook while she cares for their kids. They said they are practicing Mormons, pay taxes and live modestly.
Kastner first met the couple in March at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, where they took weekly immigrants-rights workshop and received a red card, which shows their constitutional right to remain silent and not have a home searched unless there is a warrant.
According to the consulate, attendance there drastically soared since Trump became president.
Lisa and her husband’s visits to the consulate came soon after they revealed to their children about their illegal status.
The couple said they have heard a lot about families being torn apart as a result of deportation and did not want the same to happen to them.
“We heard a lot of stories, you know, they took those parents and the kids they left behind. We don’t want that for our kids,” the husband said.
The couple’s 8-year-old daughter said she often cries in the school’s restroom because she constantly worries about the possibility of her parents being deported.
“I’m afraid that when school is over, I don’t see them again. And I have to go to the orphanage,” the girl said as she trembled.
The girl and her five siblings have never met their grandparents, who live in Mexico, because the children do not have the necessary papers needed to cross.
The family says it breaks their hearts. But trying to live the American dream does not come without sacrifice.