Living in Fear in the United States


What’s it like to live as an immigrant inside the United States? For too many people, that means living in fear. Undocumented immigrants fear deportation. Many legal permanent residents fear increasing attempts to revoke their status for even old and minor criminal convictions. Both legal permanent residents and citizens fear for their immigrant parents, fear for their immigrant parents,  sisters and brothers and friends. 

Undocumented immigrants live in fear, regardless of how long they have lived in the United States or how law-abiding they are. The Guardian reports on the Trump administration’s move to deport anyone and everyone they can, including “ a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy Ice arrested in October 2017 after she left a Texas hospital for treatment; undocumented adults who volunteer to take custody of children who crossed the border by themselves; and an elderly couple visiting their pregnant daughter-in-law and her husband at a military base in New York for the Fourth of July holiday.”

But it’s not just undocumented immigrants who live in fear. Daniel Perez described his experience as an undocumented teen, as a DACA recipient, and now as a legal permanent resident in a moving podcast interview with Kara Lynum on Immigration Nation. As a school social worker, he now works with others who are in the same situation. And, as he explains, many families are mixed status, so that some are safe while others are deported—as his brother was.

A HuffPost article focuses on another mixed-status family, with one citizen, two DACA recipients, and parents with TPS—all but the 11-year-old now face the Trump administration’s effort to force them out of the country, and that child faces a possible future without a family.

TOMORROW: Tune in to TPT Almanac at 7 p.m. on Friday. One segment in the show focuses on Minnesota immigrants, and an overview of the current situation from John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

Permanent legal residents now face another challenge: the administration’s proposed regulation changing the definition of “public charge.” While this regulation would not directly affect legal permanent resident status, it would apply to any petitions for visas for spouses or children. The proposed regulation expands the list of cash and non-cash benefit programs that can be considered, as well as looking at factors such as age, health, earning ability, and fluency in English.

Beyond the actual application of the proposed regulation (and it is still proposed, not yet adopted), is the fear factor, which is leading many immigrants to pull themselves and their children out of health and nutrition programs:

“Their opening words were, ‘We want you to discontinue our WIC service. We don’t think it is in our best interest to continue to participate,'” Samuelson said, adding that it was an unusual request. “They didn’t want anything that would have a continued date of participation associated with them in our files.”

“The woman is from the Philippines. She is a lawful permanent resident with a green card and is married to a U.S. citizen. The couple has a 4-month-old baby boy.

“Green card holders are exempt from the proposed “public charge” rule, which would put new federal regulations in place around who’s allowed to come to the United States and who’s seeking adjustment of immigration status. The WIC program is also exempt.

“Still, some lawful permanent residents, like Samuelson’s client, have considered canceling their public benefits for fear that their participation would hinder their ability to become citizens.”

This PowerPoint presentation gives a clear and comprehensive explanation of what the regulation would do, and when it could take effect. The public comment period for this regulation is now open, and you can comment before December 10.

Other immigrants, safe for the moment, still live in fear for their futures. Irakere Picon and Arianna Hermosillo, a married couple, both Illinois attorneys. He’s a DACA recipient, who arrived in the United States at the age of two, in 1991. His  DACA status protects him now—so long as the courts continue to block Trump’s efforts to end it.

More than 300,000 immigrants, most of whom have lived in the United States for decades, also face the threat of termination of their Temporary Protected Status. For now, a temporary injunction from a federal court protects TPS holders, but that is no guarantee for the future.

Not even soldiers who have fought for the United States are safe.

“A Canadian army captain who fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan, and who is married to a former officer in the US air force, has been deported as Donald Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policies continue to break apart military families.

“Demetry Furman, 47, says he held a top-level security clearance with US forces during his service in the Middle East and worked with them on several successful anti-drugs operations that prevented millions of dollars of heroin coming to the West.”

A 29-year-old immigrant soldier found her loyalty questioned in a security screening.

“Under “Loyalty,” she had been flagged for comments she made about following a series of lawsuits filed on behalf of immigrant recruits like her who’d enlisted in the US military with a promised path to citizenship only to find themselves mired in years of bureaucratic limbo and at risk of deportation while they wait.

“I was shocked seeing it in under ‘loyalty issues.’ How is this disloyal to the United States, or dishonest? Of course I follow these lawsuits, these claims have merit,” she told BuzzFeed News, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of endangering her family in her home country. “This really smells like retaliation. I felt like the screener was thinking ‘hell, yeah, I can use that against you.”

Three immigrants, formerly or currently undocumented, have written memoirs about their lives in the United States. They describe the emotional toll in an interview with the New York Times.

“When I started going to schools with primarily English speakers, I thought: “If I am just the best at spelling, none of these white kids are going to be able to tell me anything about my accent; about my parents or where we come from. If I beat them at everything, they have to accept me.” But what I found was that no matter how good I got at anything, I was never going to be accepted. And so when I started writing, and I turned to black literature, it did unlock this idea that I actually didn’t want to participate in America as constructed. I wanted to construct a world where I didn’t have to erase parts of myself. Poetry gave me a space to talk about the in-betweenness that I felt and ask myself questions like, “What kind of home do I want to create for myself?””

Tomorrow: how immigrants are building America.


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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