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San Francisco Bay Area community news

Deportation forces kids to make tough choices

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
April 3, 2007

Four local children, all U.S. citizens, are leaving the country Friday to remain with their parents, who have been ordered deported by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Their father, Pedro Ramirez, was deported to Mexico Feb. 28 within hours of his arrest. Their mother, Isabel Aguirre, was immediately placed under house arrest and ordered to leave the country by Friday, leaving the future of their four children in question. Ramirez and Aguirre have lived in the United State since 1985 and 1989, respectively.

All four children — 6-year-old Adriana, 10-year-old Yadira, 12-year-old Adrian and 15-year-old Pedro — have chosen to go to Mexico to remain with their parents rather than be placed in foster homes, the family’s advocates said at a press conference Monday. While the advocates decried recent ICE raids for tearing families apart, ICE officials said that it’s parents choosing to remain in the country illegally — not federal immigrations officers — who put their children at risk.

“The parents know they are in the country illegally, and they should have been expecting at some point that this would pose risks and consequences for their children,” ICE spokeswoman Laurie Haley said. Ramirez and Aguirre were ordered deported in 2000 and lost an appeal on that order in 2005, according to Haley.

The press conference was held at the first United Methodist Church and organized by American Muslim Voice, and the speakers were from those organizations as well as other spiritual groups. Many of the speakers, including the children, said the choice between deportation and foster care seemed unfair.

“I would rather stay here,” said Adrian, a student at Terman Middle School. “We have a better education here, and I’m going to leave my friends behind.”

Chris Schultz, a math teacher at Gunn High School, said he has consoled Pedro a number of times regarding his decision to move to Mexico.

“It’s not fair to make any 15-year-old have to make that kind of life-separating choice,” Schultz said.

ICE stepped up its enforcement efforts in October 2006, targeting immigrants who have ignored deportation orders, Haley said. Since then, its officers have made 1,400 arrests, including 785 “fugitives” and 615 with no prior deportation orders. By the end of this year, ICE will increase the number of teams working nationally from 52 to 75, according to Haley.

ICE raids in San Francisco and the Peninsula frightened many immigrants, some of whom stopped going to work or kept children home from school for fear they would be detained while at schools or on the job. While San Francisco is a sanctuary city, meaning its police force does not check citizenship papers or cooperate in the deportation of residents, some Peninsula cities do check residents’ status.

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

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Written by Beth Winegarner

April 3, 2007 at 11:39 PM

Posted in immigration, Palo Alto

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