By Erin Thompson

immigrantissue12

People watch an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at a meatpacking plant in Colorado.

Peggy Delarosa-Delgado is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who became a U.S. citizen in 1990 and lives in Long Island, New York. In September, her house was mistakenly raided by armed immigration officials looking for an “undocumented” immigrant. Even though the immigration officials had the wrong address, they broke into Delarosa-Delgado’s home and frightened her whole family.

“It’s not right,” Delarosa-Delgado told The New York Times in October. “My kids were scared. They had to sit in the living room like little criminals.”

An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. “Undocumented” means that they do not have legal status to live or work in the United States. Many of these immigrants came to the United States because they cannot find jobs in their home countries. In the United States, many of these immigrants work jobs, raise families and live like any other U.S. citizen.

However, since November 2005, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been given authority by Congress to conduct armed raids on the homes and businesses of undocumented immigrants and arrest them. According to the ICE, 195,000 undocumented immigrants were arrested last year alone. Once arrested, the immigrants are deported (sent back to their home countries).

Often this process separates families, because it forces parents to choose between leaving their U.S.-born children in the United States or taking them back to their home countries.

“We have to stop families being torn apart. We have to stop people who have worked for decades in the U.S. being sent back to Mexico and having no job and no place to live,” Mexican activist Elvira Arellano told the Catholic News Service in October.

Arellano was deported by U.S. immigration officials in August and had to choose between leaving her son, a U.S. citizen, in the United States, or taking him to Mexico, her home country. She eventually decided to take her son with her, and now lives in Mexico.