Arizona family split apart by current immigration policy

PHOENIX - "We were actually crossing about right there when the police had pulled up," said Julisa Avila.

Last December Avila was walking near some train tracks outside of Phoenix with her mom. They say they did not see this "No Trespassing" sign. Her mom was arrested.

"You know, having them arrest her in front of me, like, as if she did something bad, really upset me because she's a great mother," said Avila.

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The Avilas together, in earlier times.
Courtesy of the Avila family

But 36-year-old Norma Bernal is also an unauthorized immigrant so she was deported back to Mexico. She tried to cross the border again in April to get back to her family and was arrested. She's now in an Arizona detention center waiting for a deportation ruling. Her son, Christopher Avila, is 10 years old.

Asked what he says to his mother when he visits, Chris Avila said: "I just tell her that I love her."

And how does he feel when he leaves? "Pretty sad because I see her just through the doors saying bye - and it's really hard for me. She was just a really cool mom and I really miss that about her."

Julisa, Christopher and their brother, Alexis, were all born in the U.S. and are American citizens. There are an estimated four million illegal immigrants now living in this country with their U.S.-born children.

According to Pew Research Center 3.7 million of those adults face deportation if caught. The Obama administration is considering granting some of them legal status to prevent breaking up families.

The Avilas are being shuffled between family members in the Phoenix area. Julisa is 16 and wants to finish high school. Christopher just wants his mom to see him play soccer. He wrote about it in a letter to immigration officials asking them to free her.

"I see other kids hugging and kissing their moms, and I feel sad because I don't have my mom to be there to hug and kiss me," he wrote.

What happens to the three of them if their mom gets sent back?

"We'd probably end up going to Mexico," said Julisa.

Asked if he knows anything about Mexico, Christopher said "No. I just know a lot of bad things happen there."

All of the children said they would go there if it's the only way to be with their mom. But for now this is a family divided and headed in very different directions.