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Woman Is Guardian for 900 Immigrant Children


Last year, the federal government removed 240,000 people from the United States who had entered the country illegally. Pew Research says that is 20,000 more than were deported in 2012.

The children of some of those expelled stayed in the country. That is because they were born in the U.S. and are U.S. citizens. Some of these children lost both their parents to deportation.

A woman in Miami, Florida, is now legally responsible for more than 900 of these children. Their parents signed documents giving Nora Sandigo what is called guardianship. Every day she provides supplies to the children. People donate the supplies to Ms. Sandigo’s non-profit organization.

Ms. Sandigo also holds celebrations for the children at her home on Saturdays and Sundays.

One room in her home holds bags of fruit, canned food and other supplies. There are also records on each child, including photographs and government documents.

“If you do it for one or two, you have to do it for everybody.”

Ms. Sandigo plans to help an additional child and mother soon. Francisca will have a baby in about three months. She already has two daughters. Recently, a judge ordered her husband to be returned to Guatemala.

Francisca says, in Spanish, that she does not know what will happen to her family. So she has given Nora Sandigo guardianship of her two daughters and her unborn baby.

Parents ordered for deportation can choose to take their children with them. But many do not do so because they believe their children will have a better life in the United States.

“I don’t want to take my children because here is where their future is.”

The federal government will provide the children with financial support if they stay in the United States. But Ms. Sandigo says sometimes caregivers of these children left in the U.S. are afraid to seek help from government agencies.

Carol Emig operates Child Trends, a child research and information center. She supports Ms. Sandigo’s efforts. But she says Ms. Sandigo cannot provide all that the children need.

“She is not able, in her situation I think, to provide the kinds of protection that a well-functioning child welfare system would provide. So, there isn't a case worker who is checking on the well-being of the kids with the foster parents or the guardian.”

Ms. Sandigo’s cellphones ring all the time. Someone always needs something. She says the demands will not end. She blames the government.

“Who is doing the separation of the families? It’s not me. I don’t have any power.”

Ms. Sandigo was so angry with the government that she recently rented a bus and took 38 children to the White House, where President Barack Obama lives and works.

Elena Marquez cried as she told about her father working in farm fields in Florida before he was deported. She says she is now alone with her mother and younger sister.

“Please stop the deportations now. Not just for my dad but for the other kids.”

Jason Garcia is ten years old. He also cried when he said in Spanish that his sister and mother are worried for their father, who was deported.

President Obama has said he will not make any changes to immigration policies until after congressional elections next month. Ms. Sandigo believes he made the decision for political reasons.

“The politicians asked him to delay the decision until after the elections. And he did. It’s sad because he exchanged the cry and the suffering of the children in a political game.”

Both Democrats and Republicans accuse each other of making political decisions about immigration.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Anne Ball.

VOA national correspondent Carolyn Presutti reported this story from Miami. Christopher Cruise wrote it for Learning English. Caty Weaver edited the story.

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Words in This Story

deport v. to force (a person who is not a citizen) to leave a country

guardian – n. someone who takes care of another person or of another person's property

afraid – adj. feeling fear

well-being – n. the state of being happy, healthy, or successful

rent – v. paying money to use property

delay – v. to decide to do something at a later time; to postpone; to cause to be late

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in This Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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