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Illegal immigration leaves impact on Arizona families

Because of immigration laws such as SB 1070 and current immigration policies, some Valley families find themselves suddenly divided and instant members of an expanding social status commonly referred to as mixed-status families.

Mixed-status families include members with different immigration statuses. Some are U.S. citizens, others legal residents and others are undocumented. The dynamic could be constantly changing as well.

A total of 16.6 million people live in mixed-status families — with at least one unauthorized immigrant — and a third of U.S. citizen children of immigrants live in mixed-status families, the Center for American Progress reported in “How Today’s Immigration Enforcement Policies Impact Children, Families, and Communities.”

According to that same study, “The number of immigrants removed has steadily risen, from close to 190,000 deportations in 2001 to close to 400,000 per year in the past four years. Even more troubling, in the first six months of 2011 alone, more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported.”

“Husbands and wives who are being separated, parents are being separated from their children and in most cases these kids don’t even know another country, like Mexico, for example,” said Phoenix Immigration Attorney.

Cynthia Diaz, a 17-year-old honors high school student and a U.S. citizen is a prime example of how the system has taken a toll on her family.

“The most difficult part is having to fill her spot. I don’t have a lot of free time. When I come home I do my homework, do my chores, cook for my family then do more homework,” Diaz said.

Over a year ago, her mother was deported. Every other member of the Diaz family was either born here or had gained legal status. Her mother attempted to gain residency, but before that could happen, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents caught up with the woman and arrested her.

Meanwhile, Diaz said she has had to assume the mother role to her younger siblings and care for the household, while her father earns a living.

“I cry secretly, I don’t want to let my dad know that I am weak,” Diaz said.