Deportations Leave Teen Alone
Immigration raids often make headlines but what you often don't see is what happens next to families affected by deportations. Lilla Marigza introduces us to a teenager who suddenly found herself alone in America.
(Locator: Ypsilanti, Michigan)
Eighteen-year-old Jasmine Franco is an American citizen caught between two worlds.
Jasmine Franco: "That is my dad and my mom, his name is Hector, and Gloria. And that's Jennifer, my baby sister."
The Francos fled poverty in Guatemala nearly 20 years ago. In the U.S. the couple had two daughters, owned their home, and worked full-time&ellipsis;until that day in 2008.
Jasmine Franco: "They just bursted in the door and told all of us to get on the floor."
Immigration agents raided the family's trailer.
Jasmine Franco: "They were just yelling like we were criminals and just get on the floor and put your hands in the air and when I looked in the room, my mother's face. She just looked at us and I saw tears running down her face just because she knew what was going to happen."
Jasmine's mom was deported and her father fled the country. When Jasmine realized she had no means to care for her 12 year-year-old sister Jennifer - also an American citizen - Jasmine put her on a plane to go live in Guatemala.
Jasmine Franco: "When she was going hungry like I was, on the weekends, and that's when I just said she can't stay in this situation. This is where she grew up. She barely knew how to talk Spanish. And she didn't want to go."
A junior in high school and all alone, Jasmine struggled to pay bills with a part-time cleaning job. When ICE agents banged on the door looking for her father, Jasmine huddled in her trailer and called a United Methodist pastor, the Reverend Melanie Carey, for comfort.
The Rev. Melanie Carey: "It would re-traumatize her every time."
Jasmine was lonely, frightened, and struggling to feed herself. Members of Ypsilanti First United Methodist, like Natalie Savvides, stepped in to help.
Nathalie Savvides, Ypsilanti First United Methodist: "That first time that I took groceries to Jasmine, I took my daughter along who was the same age and also a junior in high school. And she went with me. And it really hit her hard, not Jasmine's living conditions, but just the fact that she was all alone."
Jasmine Franco: "This is my room at Mike and Margie's house. This is my space. I kept this picture, I really liked it."
Retirees Mike and Marjorie took Jasmine into their home.
Mike: "Now that she's here, it's given us an opportunity for her to open up, for her to relax, for her to take a deep breath and for her, most importantly, to be a kid again."
With the support of her church, Jasmine became the first in her family to finish high school. She is now on the college honor roll and hopes to become a doctor someday. But Jasmine's thoughts are always with her family living a hard life in Guatemala.
(Jasmine talking with mom on phone)
Jasmine: "It's really dangerous over there. I'm always scared that I am gonna get a call just saying your family, some family member is dead."
The Rev. Melanie Carey, Ypsilanti First United Methodist: "With Jasmine's story, we see very clearly that by deporting her parents all we did was impoverish more people. Because now we have two sets of people in two different locations who are in poverty."
There's been a lot of talk about immigration on a federal and state level, but fellow church members like Nancy Uffner-Elliott, who know Jasmine, understand the problem on a human level.
Nancy Uffner-Elliott, Ypsilanti First United Methodist: "What I hope the faith communities do is raise awareness that is positive and hopeful and allows families to stay together."
Jasmine: "This has made me want to go forward and continue fighting for what I want to be, and just have a voice for the people who don't have a voice. It is hard, but you will always have God by your side."
To see a longer version of Jasmine's story and learn about ways to use the material to talk about the issue of immigration, visit www.rethinkchurch.org/immigration.
Posted: August 18, 2011