immigration move expected to leave out millions of childless adults
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[November 20, 2014]
By Julia Edwards
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Friday nights,
in the Denver suburb of Arvada, Ramon Madera invites his sister Angelica
and her three children over to his home for dinner and games. It's a
tradition that became all the more important after the children's father
was deported back to Mexico about five years ago.
Lately, conversations on game night have taken an anxious turn:
Madera himself was apprehended by immigration enforcement agents in
September and is due in court for a deportation hearing next June.
Madera, 36, said that while he may be a father figure to Angelica's
children, as a gay man who has no children of his own he is unlikely
to benefit from the executive action President Barack Obama is
expected to announce on Thursday night. His deportation hearing will
probably go ahead as scheduled.
"I'm like the dad of the family," said Madera. "If they need money,
they ask me. If they aren't sure if they should do something, they
call me. For every thing, every opinion, they come to me."
Obama, seeking to give legal status to some of the more than 11
million immigrants without documents in the United States, is likely
to focus on keeping nuclear families together by granting temporary
relief from deportation to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that around 6.5 million
people are like Madera, undocumented immigrant adults living in the
United States without children.
Angelica's daughter and two sons are U.S. citizens, so she will
likely be granted relief. But she worries about how she will provide
for her family if her brother is deported.
She was laid off from a factory job around a year ago and has been
supporting her family on wages from sporadic cleaning jobs and help
from her brother.
Madera has been collecting letters from his family members to take
to the judge at his deportation hearing and make a case that he is a
good person on whom they depend.
A policy focused on keeping nuclear families together is an easier
sell for Obama in a political climate where Republicans are eager to
block any presidential action. Republicans, who take over full
control of Congress in January, largely view relief from deportation
as amnesty for people who broke U.S. immigration law.
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Family-centered policies have long been deemed palatable to American
voters, said Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the
Center for American Progress.
"The idea of a kid growing up without his parent is hard to swallow.
We've had a history in this country of adopting policies that are
pro-family unification." Fitz added he thought policies should focus
not just on family connections but also on rootedness, or ties to
Madera said he felt much like an American citizen until he was
apprehended before boarding a domestic flight in September. He has
been living in the United States since 1994 and pays taxes with the
money he earns from his business as a house painter and tree
He spent 24 days in detention before being released on bond.
For people like him, whose day in court is scheduled and for whom no
relief is in sight, the fear of deportation is likely to continue to
be a reality.
Immigrant advocacy groups are likely to use stories such as Madera's
to try to pressure Congress to reform the immigration system through
legislation, rather than through executive actions singling out
certain categories for deportation relief.
(Reporting By Julia Edwards; Additional reporting by Alistair Bell;
Editing by Frances Kerry)
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