In the Guerrero household, there was a common saying: “Nuestra situación no esta resuelta,” which means “Our situation isn’t settled.” The specter of deportation loomed over Diane’s undocumented parents and brother constantly. As the author puts it,
Our lives revolved around my parents’ quest for citizenship.
This “situation” became the center of family life and led to many challenges and tragedies. Among others, these trials included being preyed upon by a fraudulent lawyer, Diane’s parents’ simultaneous arrests, and Massachusetts Child Protective Services’s complete failure to even inquire about Diane’s welfare once she was separated from her parents.
In 1997, when Diane was eleven, her father, who was extremely fearful about sharing his family’s legal status with anyone in a position of authority, finally spoke to an immigration lawyer. The referral came from a Guatemalan neighbor. Diane’s mother urged Papi to follow up with the attorney, which he ultimately did. The lawyer said he could help and set up a payment plan. For two years, Diane’s father worked multiple jobs to pay the lawyer’s fees while supporting his family. He never missed a payment. The fees were expensive, well beyond what the Guerreros could reasonably afford. The attorney repeatedly promised that he was working on changing their legal status. “My parents had forked over thousands of dollars, close to everything they had,” the author recounted. Diane’s father continued to hand over his hard-earned money. He was told,
It shouldn’t be much longer, probably a few months.
Then the immigration lawyer stopped answering his phone. When Papi went to the office, the lawyer had simply vanished, taking the family’s money with him and leaving nothing. They never heard from the attorney again. The Guerrero family had no recourse.
In 2001, Diane’s parents were taken from her without warning. She came home from school to find her house empty. Her father’s boots were still inside the door. The house appeared undisturbed, but no one was there. A neighbor came to the front door to tell Diane that immigration officials had arrested her parents. Diane would learn that they had been arrested separately. Her mother had been preparing dinner. Her father had been arriving home from work. Diane’s parents were sent to separate facilities.
Furthermore, there was the devastating question of who would care for Diane, who was still only fourteen years old. Her parents were helpless to care for their daughter from prison.
When the authorities made the choice to detain my parents, no one bothered to check that a young girl, a minor, a citizen of this country, would be without a family.
This issue went completely unaddressed by the authorities. Diane felt that she was invisible and inconsequential to the government agents who arrested her parents, despite the fact that she herself was a United States citizen.