This Mother’s Day, we want to reflect on a recent announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow corn masa flour—the main ingredient of tortillas—to be fortified with folic acid. By fortifying a dietary staple among Latino families, corn masa manufacturers will help raise our community’s levels of this B vitamin that is essential in producing red blood cells and in making and repairing DNA. This is a major public health approach to reduce the rate of potential birth defects, such as spina bifida, among all children.
While mothers across the country are celebrated this weekend, we must also remember that for many, this day is bittersweet for the myriad families that have been ripped apart because of a broken immigration system. For many of these families, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of all the work left to do to fix our immigration system so that not one more family is separated.
One individual working to fix immigration is Anabel Barron from Lorain, Ohio. Barron, 33, is a mother of four U.S. citizens, a social worker, and a Ohio resident. She is also undocumented and in the middle of deportation proceedings that could very soon result in being separated from her own family.
We caught up with Barron after a rally in North Carolina to talk about her own story and about what she’s doing in the fight for immigration reform so that no more families are broken up.
NCLR: Why is immigration reform important to you and why do you think we need it?
Barron: It’s important because it’s affecting me. I’m a single mother of four US citizens. If immigration reform doesn’t pass, I’m going to be sent back to Mexico. I don’t want to go back. I came when I was 16 y/o and now I’m 33. I don’t feel like there’s anything for me in Mexico anymore. It’s important because 12 million people will benefit from this. These are innocent people, not criminals.
NCLR: What kind of difficulties did you face in getting to the United States? When did you find out about your deportation?
Barron: I came to the United States with my parents when I was 16. Shortly after arriving in San Antonio, I met my future husband and got married. I started my own life, my own family. My mom decided to move back to Mexico and I stayed in the US with my husband.
In December 2001, I was living a normal life. It’s also the time I got a call that my mother had passed. I was then faced with a difficult decision, the toughest one of my life. It was a shock to me. It took me at least five hours to decide to go to her funeral. I had two small children, citizens, who I also had to think about and I knew I didn’t have the documentation to get back here.
I went to Mexico by myself. I only went for one week. It took me another week just to get back to cross the border. At first I was detained and sent back. I was determined to get back, though. I had my two girls to get back to. After trying to cross again, I made it and my husband was in San Antonio waiting and we drove back to Ohio. After returning, I applied for a green card, with the help of my brothers who were citizens. I received a letter saying it was approved, but I was told that I had to wait for them to make it official. I’ve always carried that letter with me because I knew sooner or later something would happen and I felt like the letter would protect me.
In May 2013, as I was going to work, I was stopped for speeding. The police officer started asking me questions unrelated to a routine traffic stop. She didn’t ask for insurance, registration, nothing like that. Instead she was asking questions about my English, asked how long I was in this country. I had to be honest and told her 16 years. Her reply, “Well, I don’t know what to do with you.” She called another officer who then called the border patrol. I was detained for about four hours at the police station. I drove my car there, but it was eventually taken away. I was given the option of going home, but I was also told that the border patrol would be there waiting. I didn’t want that to happen because my kids were there, so I decided to just deal with it at the police dept. It was a nightmare, though they were very nice to me. They told me that since I was “clean” and had no prior problems that I could go back to my kids. I was processed and that’s when my deportation proceedings began.
It’s all very tiring. Right now I just try to spend as much time with my kids as I can. If immigration reform doesn’t pass, sooner or later they’re going to deport me. And, every year I have to apply and I know one day they won’t approve it.
NCLR: You have been in the U.S. for quite some time, and by all accounts you’re American. What is a typical day like for you as an undocumented immigrant?
Barron: Well, right now, I get up at 6 a.m., wake up my kids and get them fed and then to school by 7:15. Then I get ready to go to work at El Centro de Servicios by 8:30. I’m a caseworker and I work with the Latino community. I’m there until about 4, go home, make dinner for my kids, and afterward, we usually take a walk. I try to enjoy as much time with my kids as possible.
NCLR: Your children are American citizens, yet the government wants to tear you all apart. How do you explain to them what is happening with their mother?
Barron: They already know. They’re a part of HOLA. I involve my kids in HOLA, so they know it’s not just me. There is a whole community suffering. They’re not embarrassed because I’ve told them there is nothing to be ashamed of, we’re not criminals. They understand. And, I’ve told them that if I get deported, I want them to be their best. I don’t regret coming here. I’ve had a beautiful life here and my kids are going to have an even better one. I’ve told them not to give up on their dreams. My kids also know that they’re going to stay here with a family member in Texas if I get deported.
NCLR: How are you involved in the fight to pass immigration reform in Congress? What is your message to others to get involved?
Barron: I sit on immigration panels, I go to universities colleges, I go to schools, I go to rallies, I go to Mayors’ offices. I do whatever it takes to get people to understand. I’m very involved. We need to do a lot of education. I’ve discovered that doing this is my passion. If I can help others speak up, I do it. I do this with all my heart.I’m willing to do whatever it takes to pass immigration reform.
NCLR: On this Mother’s Day, what message do you have for House Republicans who don’t want to vote on an immigration reform bill?
Barron: My message is for them is this: I know they’re very busy. I know they’re working on a lot of issues, but they should just stop for a minute and think about how many families are impacted by this issue. We are a part of this community [Ohio], but they just don’t want to admit it. I want them to think about the kids and the families that are being hurt. How can they go home and have a meal with their kids when they’re separating families? I felt like my life was ending when they told me I was getting deported. Without my kids, I don’t have a life. It’s time for them to pass immigration.
by Camila Gallardo and Kathy Mimberg, Communications Department, NCLR
There are few bonds stronger than motherhood. Put two Moms in a room (or on a blog!) and it will take about a minute for them to start talking about the little people their lives revolve around as if they had known each other for years. Up all night comforting a sick, crying baby? Check. Frantically turning an old pillowcase into a costume for the next day’s school play/talent show/Halloween party? Been there, done that. Prying a misspelled homemade Mother’s Day card trailing glitter and glue off of loving sticky little fingers? Oh, yes, that’s the best!
We share a common nightmare, too: being separated involuntarily from our children. Children need their mothers. Period. What kind of nation are we to allow any policies AT ALL that go against this basic, simple premise of a civilized society? Yet, mothers are separated from their children every year when they are deported from the U.S. in compliance with our broken immigration system. According to the Center for American Progress, more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported in the first six months of 2011 alone.