After their father and sole caretaker was recently deported to Mexico, his four children—the oldest of whom is just 10—will be forced to enter the foster care system in Kentucky if they can’t come up with the money to be reunited with their father.
Antonio Cuahua’s four children—10-year-old Cecily, 8-year-old Anthony, 6-year-old Marrissiah, and 5-year-old Enrique—are all U.S. citizens. A judge recently ruled that they could be sent to Mexico to live with their father, but the documentation needed to apply for Mexican citizenship costs at least $1,500.
The children are currently staying with their aunt and temporary guardian, Jacqueline Lynn Linares. Linares told the Courier & Press that she is already raising three kids of her own in a two-bedroom house and cannot afford to care for the other four children indefinitely.
“It’s a big mess,” Linares told the newspaper. “If we can’t come up with the money, these kids are going to end up in foster care. We can’t support them. Frankly, we aren’t going to be able to carry on much longer.”
She’s started a GoFundMe page to help raise money to cover the costs.
The whole debacle began in late September, when Cuahua was driving his children to their babysitter and was stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
His 8-year-old son Anthony told the paper that his father broke down crying, saying, “They’re going to send me back to Mexico” during the stop.
As the kids cried and pleaded with the officers for information about where they were taking their father, who they’d put in handcuffs, an officer allegedly said their father wouldn’t be deported.
“They lied to us,” Anthony said.
Although Cuahua retained an immigration lawyer and tried to argue he needed to stay in the country for his children, that argument fell on deaf ears. He has seven previous misdemeanor convictions in Kentucky for offenses ranging from domestic violence to driving under the influence. Cuahua was previously asked to leave the country when he was apprehended by ICE agents in 2003 entering the U.S. without authorization. He was granted a voluntary return to Mexico, which he did not follow.
“They had the right to send me back,” Antonio said in a phone interview with the paper from Veracruz, Mexico. “But they didn’t have the right to separate my kids from me. I asked them to give me some time so I can take my kids with me. They told me, ‘You should have thought about that before you came here.’”
U.S. immigration authorities have a long history of splitting up families. They have arrested parents waiting at the hospital while their child is in surgery; fathers getting their green cards; and mothers of special needs children, among many, many others.