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‘I am a priority for deportation under Donald Trump’

Bertha, originally from Nicaragua and a mother of two children, has spent half her life in Miami. She and her husband have had a deportation order since 2010, when they were declined asylum. Now that her expulsion is a priority she explains how fear has become ever present in her life.
23 Feb 2017 – 02:36 PM EST
Bertha put a sign inside the door of her house to remind her kids not to open the door to strangers. Crédito: David Maris

MIAMI, Florida - On November 8, election night, my 11-year-old daughter Leah couldn’t sleep. I told her to go to bed but there was no way. Every time the news came on she said to me: “Mom: he's winning, he's winning…" I told her: "Go to bed." She went, but did she sleep? I don’t know. I couldn’t sleep, it was horrible. I spent the next three weeks crying because I couldn’t believe it.

In the morning, I looked at her telephone and a friend had written "He won" with crying emoticons. My daughter said to me: “Mom, you’re not going to drive, right?” And I said, “I have to drive to go to work.” I know it makes her scared that a police officer will stop me while I’m driving and hand me over to authorities for not having papers. She is paralyzed every time I drive in front of a police car.

Leah also told me that she didn’t want me to appear anymore on television, that I shouldn’t do interviews as I’d been doing in recent years as an activist, that she will show her face for me, because she’s a U.S. citizen. She told me: “I want to fight for my mom, I want to do everything I can.”

She says she does not want to be separated from her mother or her father and does not want to live in another country. But sometimes I talk to her and I tell her that Nicaragua is nice, that the day she goes to Nicaragua she won’t want to leave. I try to soften that topic because there’s no way to know what might happen tomorrow.

My name is Bertha. I’m from Bluefields, Nicaragua. I came here nearly 17 years ago. When I arrived to Miami, one of the first things I tried to do was get papers. I tried however I could, I spent more money on lawyers than you can imagine, thousands of dollars that didn’t result in anything. They shut the door on me over and over, saying that I didn’t qualify for any type of visa.

Since then I’ve lived here undocumented, but I’ve come to love this country so much that I consider myself part of it. And I’ve almost been here half my life. I was about to turn 22 when I arrived, and now I’m almost 40.

I came to Miami when I was really young, 21. In Nicaragua I had begun to study at the Administrative Information University and I worked at a cafeteria. My husband worked on a boat where he made $400 a month. I had to pay for college and food for my oldest daughter, Christell. That's when I realized I had to look for other horizons, not so much for myself but for the future of my daughter.

At the beginning of my life in the U.S., between 2003 and 2006, I had a work permit and cared for elderly people. Then they took away the permit so I started to clean houses. Since then that's the work I do.

My daughter Christell, who’s now 22, grew up here. She’s a 'Dreamer,’ who benefits from Obama’s deferred action for childhood arrivals, DACA. In 2012, she began to work part-time at a school and now she’s one of the best employees there. Now she’s studying at Miami-Dade College too, because when she began working she realized she had a dream to work with special-needs children. She has so much patience and she says she wants to be a teacher.

My youngest daughter, Leah, was born here in 2005. My husband didn’t have a work permit yet but he had health insurance, so she was born using the insurance that he had. The government didn’t help us.

In 2010, my husband and I learned that we’d had a deportation order for four years. We had requested asylum and the judge denied us and made the request for expulsion, but we were never informed.

I learned years later when I went to a lawyer to try to fix my situation, and was informed that I had a deportation order. That was terrifying. I’d never felt that scared. I left that office and felt that everyone was looking at me. It was almost like I was carrying a sign on my forehead that said “deportation.” Then I said to myself, "Now you have to take care of yourself."

Now that Trump won, the fear is worse, because he’s said that he’s going to seek out all those without papers, that we’re all criminals.

We came here as human beings looking for a better life for our kids. I don’t think that’s a sin.

And while it's true that Barack Obama did deport more immigrants than Trump has so far, there didn’t use to be so much hatred towards immigrants. Trump sowed that during his campaign. He came and awoke a sleeping giant.

I’m not just scared of immigration agents. I’m scared of the people who follow Trump. He put half the country against us, even though we’ve spent time telling our stories, trying to show people that we’re not here to steal anything from this country. We came to work, to give our children something we didn’t have, but today there is no way. Their hearts are so hard and they simply say: "I don’t care. You are illegal. Get out of my country." So there is no sensitivity for human beings and that is what terrifies me the most.

With the new rules issued by the Trump government, my husband and I have a deportation order and our expulsion from the country has become a priority. Now I know that if the police stop me for any reason, I will be deported and separated from my daughters.

As an activist I have realized what my rights are as a human being. Just because I don’t have documents does not mean that I have no rights in this country or in any other country in the world. I've noticed that I have a lot of people protecting me and the day I get caught I'm going to have a big community fighting for me.

I'm currently figuring out who will take care of my youngest daughter if something happens to me. But in the end my little girl would have to go with me and I would have to show her the poverty of my country, which she does not deserve because this country gives her everything.

But she’s going to have to go with me because who else would care for her? My other daughter? My older daughter is in limbo too because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen with DACA.

In my country I have nothing. Ever since I came here I have paid my taxes in the hope of one day being able to have my papers and enjoy old age with what I paid to social security. My dream is to see my daughters fulfilled, to buy my house and to study nursing. I want to be a Registered Nurse. I’m worried that I’m getting older and I’ll never be able to.

So I would tell Donald Trump not to get carried away and to have a little bit of awareness of what the immigrant community brings to this country. If he really loves this country as I do, I think it's time to give immigrants a chance, to make them Americans.

Lorena Arroyo conducted interviews and edited this story.