By Seth Freed Wessler
Clara’s eldest kid was 6 years old and her youngest just a year old when it happened. Josefina’s baby was 9 months. All three children were ripped from their mothers and sent to live in foster homes with strangers. Clara and Josefina, sisters in their early 30s who lived together in a small northern New Mexico town, had done nothing to harm their children or to elicit the attention of the child welfare department. Yet one morning last year, their family was shattered when federal immigration authorities detained both sisters. Clara and Josefina were deported four months later. For a year, they had no contact with their children.
The sun was rising on a late summer morning in Farmington. Clara (all parents’ names in this story have been changed) was asleep inside the trailer that she shared with the children and Josefina, who was finishing a night shift at the local restaurant where both sisters worked. Clara says she was jolted awake by the sound of banging and yelling. A group of uniformed officers, some marked with ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and others DEA, for Drug Enforcement Administration, burst through the door.