From the SF Chronicle:
The human face of immigration raids in Bay Area: Arrests of parents can deeply traumatize children caught in the fray, experts argue:
...Victor and Elvira Mendoza were detained for weeks after agents arrived at their San Pablo home in January to serve a warrant for someone who didn't live there. The brother and sister had come to the Bay Area from Mexico in 2003 to be reunited with their parents, legal U.S. residents, whom they had last seen when Victor was 13 and Elvira 9. In a crackdown begun last May against illegal immigrants who ignored deportation orders, including convicted criminals, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 18,149 people by Feb. 23.
Immigration agents arrested siblings Victor and Elvira Mendoza, 21 and 17, when it turned out the fugitive they were looking for no longer lived at the Mendozas' home. Officers detained 6-year-old U.S. citizen Kebin Reyes for 12 hours when they arrested his father as an illegal immigrant.
These and many other families across the Bay Area and the nation were turned upside down this year by Operation Return to Sender, a federal immigration crackdown begun last May. The raids focus on illegal immigrants who have ignored deportation orders, but 37 percent of the 18,149 people arrested nationwide through Feb. 23 were not wanted fugitives.
Mental health experts say the raids are traumatizing children. Legal scholars and public officials are raising constitutional questions about the way the raids are carried out and about their impact on communities as a whole. And immigrant advocates say changes in immigration law -- including tougher provisions enacted in 1996 -- leave little room for illegal immigrants to correct their status.
...The American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights sued federal authorities in San Francisco on Thursday on behalf of Kebin Reyes, now 7, saying agents violated the child's civil rights when they took him into custody. Attorneys charge that the federal government violated Kebin's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights to liberty and to being secure in his own home.
When agents arrested his father, Guatemalan-born Noe Reyes, on March 6, they would not allow him to call relatives who could take charge of Kebin and instead held the boy until an alarmed uncle heard about the arrest from neighbors, Noe Reyes and his lawyers said Thursday. "He went with his dad so he wouldn't be left home alone," said immigration agency spokeswoman Lori Haley. "We work with the families to find someone to take care of the child."
Noe Reyes, the boy's sole parent in the United States, who was released April 18, said Kebin has been fearful and withdrawn since the arrest and suffers recurring nightmares....
"Just because someone is Latino or has an accent doesn't mean an officer has reasonable suspicion they are undocumented," said Lawyer's Committee staff attorney Philip Hwang. "Even being in the household where one occupant is undocumented doesn't create reasonable suspicion, because there are legion mixed-status households."...Bay Area residents have said farewell to devoted parent volunteers, talented soccer coaches and close friends. Scores of Berkeley residents mourned the departure of Felipe and Norma Espinoza, who lived undocumented in the United States for two decades and built a much richer life for their three boys than they would have had in their hamlet in Michoacan, Mexico.
The Espinozas were placed in deportation proceedings before the current federal campaign. They hired a lawyer to try to gain legal residency, but the lawyer -- later disbarred -- didn't show up for court appearances after he took their money. In February, the couple told their sons to say goodbye to their classmates and pack their bags. The court had ordered them deported and the family returned to the two-room house where Felipe was born.
Felipe, a former steelworker, said in a phone interview that he hasn't yet found work, even as a field hand. Felipe Jr., 14, said he is studying math two years behind the geometry class he left at Berkeley High School and wishes he could return to the Bay Area, even without his parents.
Child psychology experts say children suffer most from the disruption of armed agents coming into their homes and taking away their parents -- and sometimes themselves. Children can experience stress, depression and anxiety disorders, said Amana Ayoub, a psychologist at the Center for Survivors of Torture, located in San Jose, who is familiar with Kebin Reyes' experience.
Psychiatrist Dr. Alicia Lieberman, director of the Child Trauma Research Project at UCSF, said children who witness their parents being taken into custody lose trust in their parents' ability to keep them safe and begin to see danger everywhere.
"Over and above the sense of terror about, 'What will happen to my mommy and daddy and what will happen to me?' the common thread is, 'We cannot trust the authorities,' " Lieberman said.
Many adults have responded the same way, said Evelyn Sanchez, advocacy coordinator with the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.
"We've been in touch with a lot of families that have been affected by the raids, and understandably they are scared," Sanchez said. "Being undocumented is no light matter anymore, and they are really taking cover."...Rocío Avila, a lawyer for La Raza Centro Legal in San Francisco, said an adult client of hers was detained during a raid even though he is a U.S. citizen.
"He attempted to let them know he was a U.S. citizen, and they didn't initially believe him," she said. "He asked, 'Who are you here to see? Do you have a warrant?' They handcuffed him immediately and put him on the floor."
The man, fearful of publicizing his name, is considering legal action.
Elizabeth Larose Dunn, who leads Marin Montessori School, said a sixth-grade student whose parents were arrested in immigration raids in March and did not want to be identified by name is a high achiever and "beloved in the school."
"This is America, a place we'd like to think all of our children are safe," she said. "I'm so sad about this on a personal level."