A Mom in Florida is Caring for 1,250 Children of Illegal Immigrants in Case Their Parents are Deported

Written by on April 7, 2018 in Agencies & Systems, Government, Politics with 0 Comments

Image via Associated Press

By GISELA SALOMON | Associated Press

The 29-year-old Mexican farmworker was stressed and afraid. Her husband had just been detained by immigration authorities as he left a South Florida construction site and was about to be deported. She feared the same would soon happen to her. What would become of her two kids?

So she called Nora Sandigo, an immigration activist who has accepted responsibility for 1,250 children, becoming an essential part of emergency planning for people who are in the U.S. illegally and now face an increasing prospect of being caught amid a crackdown under President Donald Trump.

“Don’t worry,” Sandigo told her on a recent morning. “Come see me tomorrow.”

Hundreds of immigrant parents have signed a document known as a power of attorney that enables Sandigo to care for their children if they are detained, at which point it might be too late to make such an arrangement.

“People are desperate to do this to protect their kids,” she said after hanging up with the woman from Mexico. “Once they are detained there’s very little that can be done for them.”

The power of attorney allows Sandigo to sign documents on behalf of children at schools, hospitals and court. She can help the minors pursue legal residency if they are not citizens or travel abroad to be reunited with their families.

At least once a week, Sandigo, a 52-year-old mother of two daughters, drives south to the city of Homestead and drops off donated clothing and food for some of them, mostly people from Mexico and Central America who work on nearby farms.

Every two weeks, many of the families gather at her home on the rural southern fringe of Miami. Sometimes several hundred show up.

She hands out donated supplies to the adults while the kids play with a menagerie of animals on the five-acre property, including ponies, a goat, pigs and a peacock.

Most of the kids still live with at least one parent, and in the end she may never have to take care of most of them.

Sandigo, a deeply religious woman who makes frequent references to God and Jesus, gets more involved if the parents are detained or deported. In December, she accompanied an 8-year-old Mexican girl to the hospital because the child couldn’t sleep, eat or stop crying after her father was detained and went with another child to an asylum hearing in downtown Miami.

Two kids from Nicaragua whose parents were forced to leave the U.S. lived with her for two years. One now attends Georgetown University and the other lives with an uncle and plans to join the Army.

A 16-year-old who was born in the U.S. to parents from India has been living with her since September 2016, getting an education at a local public school that his parents felt he couldn’t get after they were deported to their homeland. Sandigo refers to the boy, Ritibh Kumar, as “my lovely son.”

Kumar, who is tall and athletic and has lived in the U.S. most of his life, said Sandigo checks his homework and watches him play tight end on his school’s football team. “She is my No. 1 fan,” he said. “This is my second home, my second mother.”

When Lucia Ambruno was forced to return to Colombia, she placed her two children in Sandigo’s care after hearing media reports about the foundation. The two teens lived with her in Kendall for several months until they were able to move in with family friends in another part of the U.S.

“She inspires a lot confidence, a lot of love,” the 42-year-old Ambruno said of Sandigo. “I trusted her with my little ones and she didn’t let me down.”

Sandigo can relate to the immigrants she helps. She fled Nicaragua as a teen, leaving her own parents behind, after the socialist Sandinista government confiscated her family’s farm. During the 1980s, she provided the U.S.-backed Contra insurgents with clothes and other supplies and later spirited her brother out of the country at age 16 before he could be drafted into the military.


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