Immigration Raids Leave Children Behind

Nine-year-old Adeline Munoz packs for her weekly trip from San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico. It's the only place she can see her parents.

In February, her parents Abel Munoz and Zulma Miranda, who were living in the United States for 18 years on expired visas, were deported by immigration officials.

"My dad, he got handcuffed," Adeline told CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes. "I was so scared, I don't want to sleep."

While they still have an aunt here, the responsibility to keep the household together has fallen on 16-year-old Leslie.

"It's so much on me that sometimes I can't, I can't anymore," she said. "It's just too much

All three of the Munoz children were born in the U.S., so they are legal citizens — even though their parents are not. Since the parents have been gone, all three kids sleep in their room.

"So when I have this picture, I put it under my pillow, I feel like they're here," Adeline said.

"When you see your little sister's heart broken, she's there crying," Leslie said. "And you wish you could bring her parents back, because she wants them back. It's hard."

It's unclear how many children have been left behind in the United States to fend for themselves since Operation Return to Sender. Almost 24,000 people have been arrested for visa violations, sparking protests across the country.

For those deported to Mexico, the United States-Mexico border is the dividing line between family members: the children on one side the parents on the other, both facing an uncertain future.

The Munoz family border reunions are bittersweet.

The parents say they just couldn't bring the children to the slums of Tijuana with no jobs and only sharing a room at Zulma's parents' house.

"I would describe the deportation experience as something inhumane," Zulma said. "The little one always tells me, 'Every time I hear a knock at the door, I think it's immigration. It makes me scared.'"

Critics of illegal immigration concede it's a tough situation — but one the parents themselves created.

"If a U.S. citizen parent commits a crime and is arrested, nobody is out there protesting that this person shouldn't be separated from his kid to go to jail," said Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration group.

Jenks says part of the problem was past lax enforcement.

"Once we routinely enforce the law, we will face this situation much less because there will be fewer people coming in and putting themselves in this position," Jenks said.

  • Christine Lagorio

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