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April suffers from childhood cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Her parents have been illegal immigrants for 16 years. Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN. Source: The Atlantic.
April suffers from childhood cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Her parents have been undocumented immigrants for 16 years. Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN. Source: The Atlantic.

This couple of undocumented immigrants fears for the health of their disabled daughter

A couple of undocumented Mexicans fear being deported and failing to achieve the same means and benefits outside the United States, to ensure a minimum quality…

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Rafael and Sonia have lived in the United States as undocumented for more than a decade, and they have two American daughters. One of them, April, is conditioned by severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy, which makes her totally dependent on her parents.

The Mexican couple is part of a community of immigrants who live in California motorhome camps, which guarantees them certain anonymity in front of the immigration officials.

According to The Atlantic, Abril's father, Rafael, arrived in Santa Cruz de California from Mexico when he was 19. Although his family has legal immigrant status in the United States, Rafael is still waiting for his application for citizenship to be processed, since 2001.

Rafael and Sonia met a decade later and, during the first pregnancy, Sonia stopped feeling the baby move when she arrived at 35 weeks. "After an emergency cesarean, April was rushed to the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital."

It was then that they met Dr. Salem Magarian, pediatric director of the Community Health Center of Santa Cruz, who told The Atlantic that Rafael and Sonia's circumstances are not unique, and that there are many patients with specific health conditions that fear being deported and losing the attentions and benefits they have in the country.

Cases close to Magarian count among multiple congenital malformations of the cardiac system, acute genetic conditions and other diseases, but all parents suffer the same fear: that of being deported and having to make a decision regarding the health of their children.

A mother, who has been undocumented in the country for 16 years, said she tries not to go anywhere: "If I have to go somewhere, I am very afraid ... I know this is not my country, I know it is not my place, but I've never done anything wrong and I have a special baby who needs his mother", she said.

This fear has been growing thanks to the new immigration measures incorporated by the Trump Administration, which promised to remove undocumented immigrants with a criminal record of some kind. But new reports indicate that having a child with a disability could not mean an exception. According to The Atlantic, the Salt Lake Tribune recently reported that a single mother, who took care of her 18-year-old son with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, was deported to Colombia, and another similar case happened in Ohio.

For ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, the mother could decide whether to take her child with her or leave him on American soil.

According to the report, ICE agents assert that, although the deportation goal has always been the immigrant with a criminal record since the previous administration, "the new administration has changed policies to not continue selective enforcement practices (...) Basically, no one is exempt from arrest, "said James Schwab, an ICE spokesman in the San Francisco office.

With such a tenebrous scenario, Rafael and Sonia have chosen to appeal to a lawyer to try to resolve their immigration status for the sake of their daughters, but the legal status of both may not be so simple.

"At best, a judge could cancel the removal of their parents because of the difficulty they would impose on a medically dependent child. But judges do not always do this, "the report continues.

According to Bárbara Pinto, a senior lawyer at the Law Center of La Raza in Oakland, this measure is "very irresponsible and unethical" by lawyers, because it guarantees absolutely nothing.

For the young couple, this is the only way out. The difficulty in getting someone to take care of a girl with cerebral palsy is absolute, and April could end in foster care.

Taking her to Mexico with them is another impossibility. In the United States, "Medi-Cal and California Children's Services pay for the expensive equipment and medication that keep April alive, but that only happens in the United States."

According to Rafael and Sonia, the medication that April takes for the epileptic seizures costs about $ 5,000 a month, something they could not afford on their own.

While the legal process begins, the young couple has decided to cancel the walks to the park and leave only when it is extremely necessary, because the health of their daughter well deserves the sacrifice.

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