After Parents’ Deportation, U.S. Children Face Mental Struggles

Feb. 18, 2014 / By

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New America Media, News Report, Anthony Advincula

Above: Myrna Orozco says that her therapist diagnosed her with PTSD, but she had to stop seeing the therapist because she could not afford it anymore. As an undocumented immigrant, Orozco could not avail herself of most public health services, including counseling. / photo courtesy Myrna Orozco

NEW YORK, N.Y.— Myrna Orozco will never forget the phone call she got from her cousin in October 2011.

Immigration officials had arrested her father and taken him to a detention center in Kansas City, where the family was living at the time.

“I was in shock,” she said. “I immediately thought about my mother and my younger siblings, and what was going to happen to all of us.”

What made it even more frightening for Orozco was her own immigration status. She was the only undocumented child among four siblings. Now 23, Orozco says she has never felt as scared and helpless as when she heard the bad news.

Juan – the name the family asked to be used out of fear of further legal trouble – had been deported previously to his native Mexico, but he reentered the United States without permission. When he was arrested again in 2011, he was charged with the federal crime of illegal reentry. Juan has been serving a five-year imprisonment and will most likely be deported after completing his sentence.

Her father’s detention had a ripple effect throughout the family. Anna, the youngest daughter, was 15 at the time. She began to behave badly, alternately acting withdrawn or clamoring for attention. Anna dropped out of school, Orozco says, and ran into legal trouble on different occasions, getting caught driving a car without a license, stealing her teacher’s cell phone, and trying to break into someone’s house.

Last year, police caught Anna with marijuana, and a judge ordered her to be placed in a juvenile facility. Since then, the family has had limited contact with her.

“It’s been very hard for all of us,” Orozco said. “My mother is going above and beyond to get through these things.”

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