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What's Next: Immigrant Families In South Florida Wrestle With Open-Ended Immigration Raids

Maria, an undocumented migrant from Mexico, stayed in the U.S. after her husband was deported more than a decade ago.
Maria, an undocumented migrant from Mexico, stayed in the U.S. after her husband was deported more than a decade ago.

Fears of widespread immigration raids in South Florida appeared to dissipate without major actions on Sunday - but left migrant communities and advocates with renewed reason to come up with different strategies to deal with deportation of themselves or close family members.

In West Kendall, longtime immigrant rights advocate Nora Sandigo was praying she wouldn’t get a call on Sunday from any of her more than 1,500 children.

“Today we haven’t seen anything major,” she said in Spanish. “We hope it stays like this for the next few days.”

Sandigo is a guardian for more than 1,500 American-born kids. Their undocumented parents sign power of attorney documents, which allow Sandigo to help kids whose parents are detained by immigration authorities.

Read more: Mom To The Multitudes: This Immigrant Advocate Is The Guardian Of 1,250 Kids

“In this climate of fear, it’s the kids who most affected,” she said. “They suffer from emotional and psychological bouts – from the fear that it could be the last day they see their parents.”

Sandigo, who runs a national nonprofit, the Nora Sandigo Children Foundation, has enlisted a team of expert volunteers to care for her kids: a physician, two psychologists and an immigration lawyer. She says more families have called her over the last few weeks as news of immigration raids continue to be the norm.

Sandigo adds the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration is aimed at intimidating immigrants into giving up and returning to their home countries.

“It won’t work,” she said. “People have been living here for so many years. They pay taxes. They have made roots here.”

in Lake Worth, Maria, a 47-year-old woman from Veracruz, Mexico who asked to be identified by only her first name because her family members are not all legally in the country, said her first husband was deported after immigration enforcement officers picked him up more than a decade ago.

Yo sentía que se me cerraba el mundo y decía ‘¿Que le voy a dar de comer a mis hijos? ¿Como voy a pagar la renta? ¿Como voy a salir adelante?’ A veces lloraba – noche, dia,” she said. "I felt the world was closing on me. I would ask myself ‘How am I going to feed my kids? How am I going to pay rent? How will I get ahead?’ There were times when I would cry – night and day."

Maria stayed at home with her children before her husband was deported. After he left she worked several jobs at a time – cleaning houses, selling scrap metal. She’s coming up to her 26th year in the U.S. “ El chiste es de sacar adelante a mis hijos[What matters is to get my children ahead],” she said.

Gaby is an undocumented immigrant in Broward County and has been living in the U.S. for the past 18 years. She withheld her last name out of concern for her safety. She usually tries to stay positive about her status, she said, because she abides by all laws and there is “no reason for anybody to come after” me.

“But recently, I don’t feel that way anymore. Even going to the doctor -- stuff like that -- it makes me a little nervous because you never know,” she said. “Nobody is safe.”

She said she spent much of Sunday outside of her house because she feels going places could make it harder for immigration authorities to find her. She fears being detained and separated from her 18-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

“Having children -- you know that you are their support and they need you. Families definitely need to be together,” she said. “If anything were to happen, what would happen to them? Who would take care of them?”

Gaby said she won’t feel safe until President Donald Trump leaves office and federal lawmakers reach an immigration deal that lets her stay in the U.S.

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Madeline Fox is a senior at Northwestern University, where she is double majoring in journalism and international studies. She spent most of her time there writing and editing at the Daily Northwestern, her campus paper, before launching a podcast called Office Hours last spring. Though a native of the much-parodied hipster paradise of Portland, Oregon, Madeline has spent the last three years moving around a lot: Chicago for school, a stint covering transportation policy on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. for Medill News Service and a summer covering news at the Wichita Eagle in Kansas. After finally getting her passport about a year and a half ago, she's been working to fill it with stamps, too: She spent a semester in Sevilla, Spain, to study history; traveled to Israel and the West Bank this summer to learn about Middle East reporting and went to France this winter to conduct interviews for her thesis on the Paris suburbs. When she's not reporting, Madeline can be found cooking, reading or wandering around different parts of the city – nearly always with earbuds in, listening to podcasts. A few of her favorites are Crimetown, Radio Ambulante and Radiolab's More Perfect. She's very excited to be living in Miami, with its many new neighborhoods to explore and its famous food and beaches. After graduation, Madeline hopes to continue working in radio or podcasting.
Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.
Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.
After living in North Carolina the past four years, Miami native Sam Turken is back in the city he’s always called home.
Teresa Elena Frontado specializes in helping newsrooms navigate the complexities of digital transitions while incorporating new platforms and technology into their workflows. She has more than 20 years of experience working for media organizations in the United States and Latin America, including CBS Miami, Univision Network, El Nuevo Herald, El Nacional (Venezuela) and El Universal (Venezuela).