SALVATIERRA, MEXICO -- As Armando Cruz and his friends in Charlotte, N.C., watched U.S. senators vote on a massive immigration overhaul in June, his mind drifted 1,600 miles away to this dusty Mexican town where his little sister was on a 30-minute trek to the closest Internet cafe.
Maria Elena crossed the railroad tracks by her house on a rocky hill. She passed squatters at the abandoned station. Finally she sat down in front of a faded black computer in a converted storefront near the former convent of the Capuchinos.
Armandos phone buzzed:
How does the vote look? Maria Elena wrote via Facebook.
I dont know. They dont have the numbers yet. But it sounds good, he responded.
Well thats good.
Yeah, he said. Lets see if it stays good.
Armando Cruz was just 16 when his family was ripped from his life. Its been three years since hes seen his parents, his little brother and all but two of his sisters, who returned to Mexico once his father was deported after an early morning raid at their East Charlotte duplex.
As a result, Armando has spent some of the most formative years of his adolescence in Charlotte being raised by people his parents have never met.The U.S.-born teenager, who graduated from Charlottes East Mecklenburg High, is one of an untold number of children born to the millions of migrant families who were lured to the United States during the booming 1990s and then, as the American economy soured, unraveled by years of record-breaking deportations under the Obama administration.
Armandos father, Juan Cruz, 41, is among the more than 200,000 parents of U.S. citizens who were deported from 2010 to 2012. Thousands of U.S.-born children, like Armando, were left behind to fend for themselves, in the hope that they could achieve what their parents could not: the coveted American Dream. Their fathers deportation forced all his siblings sisters Maria Elena, now 16, Valeria, 18, Sandra, 15, Leslie, 13, and Jocelyn, 9, and brother Juan, 4 to relocate to Mexico. It was their first trip to their parents homeland. All the children were born in the United States and thus are U.S. citizens.
They have a lot riding on the ambitious U.S. Senate plan, which, in addition to creating a path to citizenship for millions of people who are living in the country illegally, would allow some families whove been separated by deportation to be reunited.
Their fate lies largely in the hands of the Republican-led House of Representatives, whose focus has been on enforcement and is reluctant to allow the previously deported back into the U.S.
Its a bridge too far for the House, said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees immigration.
Armando Cruz, whos now 19, was on his way home from school in Charlotte in March 2010 when he saw his dads blue pickup in the driveway. Juan Cruz traveled frequently as a roofer for a construction company. It was a treat for Armando to see his dad after classes.
Papee! Armando yelled as he raced into the house.
The lights were off, the room silent. His mom was sitting on the couch in the corner where his dad usually sat. She was crying.
Armando went room to room.
Where is Papee? he repeated over and over. Is he upstairs? Is he in the yard?