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Santa Maria ICE, advocacy group, undocumented families talk immigration

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented families have been living in fear in the United States since the presidential election in November and in Santa Maria, many of these families are unsure what to do if approached by an immigration officer.

KCOY 12 spoke with the agency about who is being targeted for immigration enforcement, an advocacy group, a DACA student and a mother and her two kids who shared what the past six months have been like – as long as we hid their identities.

“I’ve been living in fear because i don’t know what’s going to happen,” undocumented Santa Maria mother “Jane Doe” said.

She is a mom with two kids. She is also in the country illegally. She asked we blur her face and call her “Jane Doe.”

“I came here to the united states 18 years ago,” Doe said. She’s been 18 years here living the American dream.

“It’s like everybody’s dream, i came to the united states to look for happiness and a future, for a future for my kids.. and I’ve accomplished a lot of things being here,” Doe said.

Today, she’s afraid her and her husband could be deported. Both of their children were born here and are American citizens.

“My daughter is 15 and my son is 9 years old,” Doe said.

After the election she began making an action plan just in case immigration officers take her away from the children.

“I do not want to be separated from my children I want them to grow up and learn the united states ways and everything,” Doe said.

She says if she gets deported, as a mother, she couldn’t leave them behind and would bring them to Mexico.

“I would cry and have fear leaving them behind,” Doe said. “They could do a lot of things for this state.. because they love this state.”

We’re calling her two kids, “Jessica and John Doe”.

“You constantly, constantly keep on thinking, like what’s going to happen,” Jessica Doe said.

“Jessica and John” say they need their parents.

They love us so of course they’re going to be worried too.

“Coming home from school without seeing our mom would be like, what happened, oh immigration took her and we’d be alone and that’s not be ok because we’re young and we need our parents here with us,” Jessica Doe said.

“Jessica doe” has big plans for her future.

“There’s like greater opportunities here, for me honestly i have a goal, i want to join the army and be the first one to go to college since my parents wouldn’t be able to,” Jessica Doe said.

Education and a better future was a common theme when talking to undocumented people living in Santa Maria.

“They don’t consider me a resident but i consider myself a resident,” DACA student Hector Ramirez said.

Hector came here as a child, illegally, from Ensenada, Mexico.

“I was seven years old when they brought me here, so i don’t know anything else outside of Santa Maria,” Ramirez said. “We’re just making the most of it, you know.”

He’s now a third year mechanical engineering student at Hancock College.

“I’m a DACA student since 2013 when that bill passed,” Ramirez said.

That DACA bill intended to protect undocumented students from being deported. The law was left intact by President Trump. Ramirez is trying to transfer to UC Santa Cruz next year but he worries about what will happen between now and then.

“If something happens, if my parents get deported, I’ll probably end up going to Mexico too,” Ramirez said.

The ICE Immigration Office opened in Santa Maria in 2014. We spoke with their field office director who says their priority is deporting people who have committed crimes, who are here illegally.

“What we do is targeted enforcement operations, so we go after individuals who have a criminal record, who have criminal convictions, who are out in the community,” ICE Field Office Director David Marin said.

ICE field office director David Marin says under president Trump’s immigration policy, there are no longer classes of undocumented immigrants who can’t be deported. What that means is just being here illegally is grounds for deportation – but he says these people are not the target of their enforcement and they’re not in the business of tearing families apart.

“I understand the community’s concerns, because it’s not easy for us also, nobody wants to take a father away from their children but when that father is a criminal alien, there are consequences,” Marin said.

Marin says ICE doesn’t conduct raids, sweeps or checkpoints. He says recent California laws have impeded ICE’s access to jails where they used to make many of their arrests, forcing them to be more active out in communities to find convicted criminals. They would like people to cooperate when approached by an ICE officer.

“We have nothing to hide right, to let the community know what we’re doing because i really find it hard for people to argue that it’s wrong for us to remove criminal aliens from this community, again you have individuals who have been convicted of crimes, who have preyed on US citizens and preyed on other immigrants,” Marin said.

Abraham Melendrez is a community organizer with the immigrant advocacy group, CAUSE.

“They’re human, again they’re neighbors, they’re friends, they’re community members,” Abraham Melendrez with CAUSE said.

Melendrez says whether undocumented or not, people have basic rights if approached by an ICE officer in a public place or at your door.

“Don’t open it, don’t speak with them, you have the right to keep them outside, unless they have warrants signed by a judge,” Melendrez said.

Melendrez says remain silent and only speak to ask for a lawyer.

“Don’t lie, don’t show false documents, obviously people get emotional when things are going on, remain calm,” Melendrez said.

“We would love to be with our kids all the time, we wouldn’t want to get separated,” Doe said.

ICE wants to remind people that they don’t make arrests at churches, schools or hospitals but they do make arrests at places of employment and courthouses, as a last resort.

KCOY 12’s Sean Larsen will have reports at 6/11 pm on KCOY 12 Central Coast News.

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