Vaya Con Mom

After their mother was deported to Mexico, the Brito children embarked on a two-year journey trying to navigate life in the United States on their own

Things stabilized a bit, and Isela and Eduardo moved to Santa Ana, too, and started attending school. But they didn't get along with their uncle's wife and had to move out. They rented a room from an aunt's brother who also lived in Santa Ana. That, too, ended up being a bad situation. "Those people were just horrible with us," Araceli says. "They were mean and rude. We were not comfortable at all."

Thankfully, the tide started to turn in their favor. Roselinn Lee, Araceli's AP U.S. history teacher at Valley and the wife of Santa Ana-area state Assemblyman Jose Solorio, remembers the day she pulled Araceli out of class to talk. "I go, 'What's going on? You're not coming to school,'" Lee says. "She said, 'Well, I didn't have money to come to school. Bus money.' I said, 'Bus money is, like, $1.25. Where do you live? What's going on?' She explained to me her situation, so I ask, 'Do you even have money to eat today?' and she says no. I just said, 'Oh, my God, this is just beyond . . . and I pulled out a 20 and gave it to her, and she starts crying."

Lee made it her mission to get the kids out of the "hellhole" they were living in. She emailed her husband to ask if he had any connections; Solorio forwarded the email to the Orange County Housing Authority, which said housing might be a possibility. In the meantime, Lee sent emails to fellow teachers, who collected money for the Britos. She also worked out deals with her husband to pay the kids to help at his events.

Everyone at Valley High School was really supportive, the Britos say, but it was Lee and Vice Principal Anuar Shalash (who has since left the school) who went above and beyond. When the kids were approved for low-incoming housing a few months later, they moved to an apartment in Anaheim, where they now live; Shalash got donations to help them furnish it.

Lee dropped the kids off after an event and got to see the apartment. "It was really nice to see that they had separate bedrooms and a kitchen," she says. "They were so dedicated to one another as a family, and they were so committed to doing well here. They're just the sweetest kids ever. They just needed a little help."

They finished that year at Valley High School but ended up transferring to Anaheim High School the next year because it was closer.

* * *

At a scholarship-awards night earlier this year, the Britos met a couple of people who also wanted to help them. One was Amin David, the round-faced, perpetually peppy septuagenarian who led the Latino civil-rights group Los Amigos for 30 years before stepping down this year. David says he attended the scholarship program on a whim, adding that he's glad he did.

"They're angels; they're babies—and babies need their mom," says David, who owns the Anaheim plumbing warehouse where the group met before their road trip to Rosarito, which he helped plan.

Another person was Mario Zapata, an associate attorney at Costa Mesa-based Nicastro Piscopo, an immigration-law firm. Zapata is now representing the family pro bono to help Ana Maria return. While he admits it's "an uphill climb,"  Zapata is working to get the Britos' mother a U Visa, which would grant her a four-year stay in the U.S. The government can give out as many as 10,000 U Visas per year to victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence, Zapata says. Normally, this would be a slam-dunk case, he says, but there are a couple of complicating factors at play.

In 2000, while living in San Diego, Ana Maria called the police after getting into a fight with her husband. Since she was married to—and victimized by—a U.S. resident, Ana Maria self-petitioned for a U Visa under VAWA and was approved, Zapata says, which meant she also got work authorization. For several years, she worked in hotels and at various fast-food restaurants. Sometime in 2007, Ana Maria filed a green-card application. It wasn't until December 2008, however, that immigration officials got in touch with her and asked her to come in. Ana Maria assumed it was for an interview, but really, the officials wanted to arrest and deport her.

She was deported for making a false claim of U.S. Citizenship in 1998, Zapata explains, which is taken very seriously in immigration-law circles. "You're committing fraud against the government, and as far as immigration law, you're permanently barred." In order to get the U Visa, the arresting agency or a judge who handled the case can sign off on a certification saying the person was, in fact, the victim of a crime and that they assisted with any investigation. In cases when he's able to get that signature, Zapata says, the U Visa is almost guaranteed.

Whether he can get the signature, though, isn't certain. "It's unfortunate because I might have the same type of victims," he says, "but in different cities, and I can do something for one of them that I might not be able to do for another."

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35 comments
DerailAmnesty.com
DerailAmnesty.com

The kids should never have come back from Mexico. They shouldn't have been born here in the first place b/c their mother is an illegal. She knew she never had any promise of any permanent residency.

This situation is just unfair to American taxpayers and citizens who have to endure their presence and pick up the tab for their expense.

Piney
Piney

I'm going to add one last thing: these "children" sound as if they've received and are receiving far more than I did in my youth. And I worked my own way through college -- took me much longer than others -- while paying my own rent, food, going without a car, my own school costs (all of it, for years), bought my own health insurance, paid my own medical costs and other insurance, bought or made my own clothes...

And lived alone even as a teenager. I found my father years later while my mother had distanced herself from me the very day I turned seventeen for her own emotional reasons.

I went to Mexico for a while to do volunteer work at an orphanage after hearing how deprived the children there were. I saved my own spare money, what little I had, to buy them basic toiletries and clothing to deliver to them. I was surprised to find that the children there had more than I ever had as a child, yet they didn't take care of what they had, taking much of what was given to them for granted.

I understand that there was no adult leadership there to set an example of how to care for possessions and self, but, the point is, there are many people from and in Mexico who have far more than many Americans ever have and yet we continue to read about how much more they take from this nation. It's wrong, it reveals an untrustworthiness about their culture, not ours.

Piney
Piney

Neither parent is supporting these children, so the U.S. taxpayers are (food stamps, housing, educations...).

I also note that the children excuse themselves from obtaining U.S. passports due to expense, yet they and their parents/relatives seem to have been able to pay for an awful lot of air travel all over the U.S. and back again, also the "van" trips to and from Mexico, all of which in today's economy, is indicative of expensive travel. Perhaps there is more to the story than they're admitting, as to them obtaining U.S. passports?

I'm sorry their mother was deported but she lied about her citizenship which is a serious offense, not only legally but on a civic basis to our U.S. society. It sounds to me that she, the mother (as perhaps also the father here) have spent a lot of time trying to work the system to their advantages while then maintaining a pretense of somehow being deserving of more. I don't think either of these parents is trustworthy. And I think the attorney quoted in this story sounds like he is trying to exploit our laws by one location versus another.

And, I wonder, IF the children were all born in the U.S., who paid for their medical care (delivery when they were born here, health care during their younger years, etc.)? I'm betting the U.S. taxpayers paid for all that, too.

Now they're all planning on attending U.S. higher education institutions and I'm betting they're all planning on that being paid for by the U.S. taxpayers -- UC tuition is not cheap, nor is attending a UC campus for four or more years for an undergraduate degree.

I am sorry these people have not planned to support themselves well if at all. But the U.S. taxpayers pay royally for such as these and it's time for those who cause these conditions of their own poverty and illegality to face the music: they're responsible for themselves and their children. I'm thinking there is more to the story, also, as to why their father didn't want them attending school in the U.S. while living with him -- likelier than not, he was attempting to keep their presence and his responsibility to them private so as not to disturb whatever else he was benefiting from (like housing, welfare, etc.).

I grow weary from these stories about people such as these. They seem to think the American taxpayers are rolling in money that "should be redirected" to whoever can lie better than others and manipulate them out of resources. And the mother wants to return to the U.S. using "for the children" as her excuse? What does she expect she'd do if she was able to return? Be supported by the taxpayers again? Work illegally again?

Sandi
Sandi

Thank you Marisa for a wonderful article.

Anon
Anon

Well-written story. I have no sympathy for anyone described here, except maybe for the father who is working his a** off in East BF Wisc. to support his and his girlfriend's eight kids.

Jerry Vazquez
Jerry Vazquez

Ulyses GrantMany Northerners believed that Polk, a Southerner, was trying to gain land for the slaveholding South. Other Americans simply thought it was wrong to use war to take land from Mexico. Among those was Second Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant .He would later call the war "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."

Abraham LincolnCongressman Lincoln and some of his fellow Whigs had a very different opinion of the president, Manifest Destiny, and the war. Lincoln believed that Polk had started the war based on a lie. On two notable occasions, Lincoln questioned Polk regarding his motives for going to war. Lincoln once took the House floor and asked Polk to prove that the Mexicans had crossed national borders in order to draw first blood on U.S. soil. This is what Polk claimed was the reason for the Mexican War. Upon addressing the president, Lincoln said: "Let the President [Polk] answer the interrogatories I proposed... Let him answer fully, fairly, candidly. Let him answer with facts, and not with arguments. Let him remember, he sits where Washington sat; and so remembering, let him answer as Washington would answer... so let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation."

John Quincy AdamsAnother issue on which he was most combative was his opposition to the Mexican War.It was on this issue about the Mexican War that John Quincy Adams’ final vote in Congress was cast. There were many others, including Congressman Abraham Lincoln, also opposed to the war. John Quincy Adams also voted “no” in 1848 when a measure was called that commended veterans of recent battles to that still ongoing war.

Representative Rovert Toombs "This war is nondescript.... We charge the President with usurping the war-making power... with This war is nondescript.... We charge the President with usurping the war-making power... with seizing a country... which had been for centuries, and was then in the possession of the Mexicans.... Let us put a check upon this lust of dominion. We had territory enough, Heaven knew"

Representative Joshua Giddingsled a group of dissenters in Washington D.C. He called the war with Mexico "an aggressive, unholy, and unjust war," and voted against supplying soldiers and weapons. He said:In the murder of Mexicans upon their own soil, or in robbing them of their country, I can take no part either now or here-after. The guilt of these crimes must rest on others. I will not participate in them.

U.S. soldiers' memoirs describe cases of scalping innocent civilians, the rape and murder of women, the murder of children, the burning of homes, and the desecrating of Catholic religious objects and buildings. One officer's diary records:“We reached Burrita about 5 pm, many of the Louisiana volunteers were there, a lawless drunken rabble. They had driven away the inhabitants, taken possession of their houses, and were emulating each other in making beasts of themselves.[59]”

John L. O'Sullivan, a vocal proponent of Manifest Destiny, later recollected:“The regulars regarded the volunteers with importance and contempt ... [The volunteers] robbed Mexicans of their cattle and corn, stole

their fences for firewood, got drunk, and killed several inoffensive inhabitants of the town in the streets.

Meerkat47
Meerkat47

Yeah, the mother is so irresponsible for having children without magically knowing that she would split up with her husband because he was abusive. How dare she fail to predict the future!

Sarah S.
Sarah S.

A powerful story about the real effects of our current immigration policies - ripping families apart, stopping kids that could be productive members of society from focusing on education and jobs, and generally causing heartbreak and chaos. Thanks for your article and attention to these issues.

jay
jay

As you can see here...all these people posting here just want people to come to this country legally...its not hard....i welcome imagration ..as long as its on paper...the state cant set a budget unless we know exactly how much money legal citizens need..thats why cali is so much in debt...if your gonna come here...do it the rite way! VIVA AMERICA!

Nativo Lopez IX
Nativo Lopez IX

If you are an illegal immigrant you need to be repatriated to your home country. There, you will fluently speak your native tongue and never be asked to produce a social security number. You will be one with your people and sleep easier as a result.

mitch young
mitch young

"They lived in Querétaro for almost a year and tried their best to assimilate, essentially living life as illegal immigrants in Mexico.

Mexican law states that any child of a Mexican citizen is a Mexican. They should have figured out how to document the mother's Mexican citizenship and then get the kids documents.

"It was so different. The homework, socializing with other people, everything," Araceli says. The children had to attend school unofficially because they didn't have papers to show Mexican citizenship. But the family slowly settled into life in Mexico, planning to live there permanently. "

Sounds like a good plan. Mexico is supposed to be famous for 'familia' -- why didn't family take care of them until they adjusted?

Guest
Guest

Serves her right. She knew what she was getting into coming here illegally.

It sucks for the kids, but she really should have considered the consequences.

JoeCommentor
JoeCommentor

Sad story?

Classic 'Mexican is a victim' pile o mierda.

Itburns
Itburns

"Diana enrolled at Valley High School and applied for welfare through the state's social-services department. They got $200 in emergency funds, which they sent back to Rosarito".

I have to send THE STATE $100 a month to pay for taxes owed from 2009, whilst struggling to keep my nostrils above the waterline. Good to see that the funds are being sent to a foreign country, while I tell my kids that they must do without. Nice.

Teresa
Teresa

great story. I disagree with some of the commenters above comparing her "fugitive" status to that of a murderer. I could go to the other extreme and compare her "fugitive" status to that of a person having minimal bench warrant for missing on a traffic ticket court date, but I won't because its similarly nonsense. The article simply follows the journey of these children's lives, and how they have found ways to succeed (or attempt at it) despite their surrounding problems. If Sherie actually read the story with comprehension, rather then generalize it as another "illegal immigrant" story, she would notice that her "children" are not all adults.

Sherie Cleere
Sherie Cleere

Sad story but no different than any other fugitive on the run from the law. There was a woman recently arrested for a murder she committed over 20 years ago. Since the murder, she straightened up, got married, had children and abided by the law. But guess what? She was sent to prison. She did this to herself. This mother was willing to take this chance with her kids. Not a very good mother. Her "children" are adults now. Hopefully they will learn from this and not break the law or if they do, hopefully they won't have children and drag them through this same nonsense.

Sherie Cleere
Sherie Cleere

Sad story but no different than any other fugitive on the run from the law. There was a woman recently arrested for a murder she committed over 20 years ago. Since the murder, she straightened up, got married, had children and abided by the law. But guess what? She was sent to prison. She did this to herself. This mother was willing to take this chance with her kids. Not a very good mother. Here "children" are adults now. Hopefully they will learn from this and not break the law or if they do, hopefully they won't have children and drag them through this same nonsense.

Evil_white_person
Evil_white_person

It is a very touching and sad story. That said, who is to blame for the kids being motherless? Certain people will blame the enforcement people, but I blame the mother who knew she was not here legally.There are people who live like the kids do who are completely legal and work at decent jobs because they have no money after the government takes its "fair share" to pay for illegals.

Alva
Alva

Very sad story. Please note that when the kids went back to Queretaro, they couldn't go to school because they lacked mexican citizenship documents.

Hopefully stories like this will cause more parents to consider the consequences before breaking immigration laws.

kuewa
kuewa

What you are asking is "why didn't those Mexican people live according to a stereotype"? Well, that's probably because individuals are not slaves to a stereotype. And I can just imagine that some of the family in Mexico may have been offended by their relatively well-to-do American relatives mooching off of them. Four great kids and a loving mother who wanted only the best for her children; she accepted the risk and was deported. I don't see any justification for the meanness in some of the posted comments.And immigration officials could have done a better job of making sure the minor children were properly cared for before trucking mom; after all, they are US citizens. Perhaps the adult sister should have been appointed guardian so that they could at least obtain passports, maintain school registration, etc.

mitch young
mitch young

I suggest making major purchases outside the state if at all possible -- Arizona, Nevada, even Mexico! Also many online retailers still do not charge tax. Hit California where it hurts until they stop not only encouraging illegal immigration, but subsidizing it.

Marisa Gerber
Marisa Gerber

Cindy,

Thanks for eagerness to help! I just responded to your email.

Bill T.
Bill T.

I would agree with your take, immigration violation is a misdemeaner ("civil" offense), not a felony (normally what is referred to as "criminal"). Folks can like it or not but that`s what it is.

Myoung2
Myoung2

Child of Mexican citizen=Mexican citizen. Get the documents. Somehow Areceli could manage to apply for a green card, claim 'domestic abuse' victim status with all that paperwork, but couldn't figure out how to get her own and her kids Mexican documents in order?

mitch young
mitch young

Why should the United States be responsible for this woman's children? Is the state responsible for people who get foreclosed on? Don't those kids have to adjust to new circumstances, often times moving in with grandparents, moving to a 'downmarket' school district, or something similar.

It is also time to readdress the "birthright citizenship" thing. It is a side effect of both Anglo-Saxon common law and the need to get ex-slaves recognized as citizens. It really is disfunctional in modern times. There have already been some noises about it from politicians, hopefully that will grow in the future.

Marisa Gerber
Marisa Gerber

*Thanks for your eagerness to help! ... oops

FP
FP

As Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson notes:

Immigration policies are directed against Jose. They are not directed against Jurgen. Because we want Jurgen to come over here and help us on the super-information highway, whereas we fear Jose wants to take our jobs!

He hit the nail right on the head. What else can I say?

me123
me123

No, Child of Mexican citizen does not equal Mexican citizen if that child was born in the US. Don't they teach social studies in our schools anymore? There is this thing called the 14th amendment, which refers to birthright citizenship

Piney
Piney

Stop it with the implications that someone's a racist because you are, more than likely.

The U.S. citizens can and should determine our nation's immigration policies and there's nothing wrong with requiring people who want to come here and live and work to dedicate themselves to our nation including embracing our Constitution and what it represents ("the rule of law"), AND who can offer an intellectual contribution to our civilization.

What is it, something like one-third OR MORE of Mexico's adult population is now in the U.S., both legally AND illegally? Seems to me that Mexico has more than received enough in terms of U.S. generosity - and now it's time for people from elsewhere to immigrate here if and when they plan to become citizens (meaning, by a legal process, immigration). "Illegal" is a behavior, it's not a race.

kuewa
kuewa

`Children do not get "foreclosed on." I'm not sure what version of the US you live in, but the US that I live in takes care of children who are abused, neglected, abandoned or removed from their parents by the government (as was the case here). Citizenship by birthright is based on English common law and is included on Article 2 of our Constitution. What you are referring to is the 14th amendment which was passed to confirm that both birthright citizenship and citizenship by naturalization applied to all people, not only whites. This was preceded by several legal opinions that birthright citizenship applied to all persons born in the US, including children born to slaves. The main issue pertained to naturalization of immigrant slaves and other non-white immigrants, and this was resolved by the 14th amendment.. I hope I am mistaken, but you seem to want racial limitations placed on birthright citizenship.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Do you mean to say that if the kids have U. S. citizenship they can't have other? Not recognized by U.S. but dual citizenship is very real, my grandkids have both U.S. and German pass ports. Can't speak to Mexican law on the issue, how about someone with actual expertise on that piping up?

 
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