As we enter a new decade… many people are making plans for the future. But for some… long term planning has been nearly impossible.
It’s the StoryCorps podcast from NPR… I’m Jasmyn Morris.
In this week’s episode… you’ll hear the difficult conversations that one family is having as they deal with the recurring threat of deportation.
Maria Rivas and her husband, Jose, came to the US from El Salvador. In 2001, they were granted Temporary Protected Status or TPS… a provisional immigration status that was extended for more than two decades.
So Maria and Jose made a life for themselves here… eventually having two children Ethan and Emily… who are US citizens.
But in 2018… the Trump administration announced the end of TPS for Salvadorans… meaning Maria and Jose would be ordered to leave the country.
It was around this time… when they had no idea what was going to happen to their family… that Maria sat down at StoryCorps to talk with her daughter Emily… who was a freshman in high school.
Emily (E): What was it like for you to come here, to the U.S.?
Maria Rivas (MR): I didn’t know besides “good morning,” and “what’s your name,” when I came here. And when you were baby, I, I used to read to you the Dr. Seuss books. Like One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. And that’s how I learned English, reading to you.
E: You know, I never really put in much thought that you were an immigrant. I just thought that, you know, you’re my mom. And I never thought that you would have to leave.
I was at school when my phone buzzed and I just saw the notification that TPS was going to terminate and I remember I started crying.
MR: When you called me, I tried to calm you down. I am like, Okay, this is happening. This is really happening. So I put myself together because I knew that I have to be strong for you. And I didn’t promise something that I cannot keep. So I didn’t promise you that everything will be okay but I promise I’m going to make sure that you are okay.
E: What are you most afraid of?
MR: I…terrified of missing you growing up. It’s terrifying. I think that I’m more afraid of that than to go back to my country. Yeah.
E: I’m afraid of losing the people that I love. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and you guys are gone because you got taken away from me. I’m scared that I’m gonna have to do everything all by myself.
MR: You’re not going to be alone, I promise you that. And I’m very hard to get rid of.
MR: So I’m going to be on the phone all the time.
E: What are your hopes for the future?
MR: That I’m going to die of an old age and be the pain on your neck all the time. [Laughs]
MR: And make sure that you find strength, even in a bad moment.
That’s Maria Rivas and her daughter Emily at StoryCorps…
It’s been a little over a year since they had this conversation… so we gave Emily a call to see how her family was doing…
Jasmyn Morris (JM): So what was it like after your story ran on the radio?
E: It was incredible at first because it made me happy that I’m talking about something that’s important to me and other people are listening to it. I was told that a lot of my classmates talked about it behind my back. In that moment, I was not angry or upset about it because good or bad, I was starting that conversation.
And my mother is the strongest person I know because she tries her best to keep up a strong front for me and my little brother. And to be able to talk about these things is something that really affected her, but at the same time, gives her hope to be able to start a conversation. You know? And that’s what we both want.
When Emily first came to StoryCorps, her family was on the brink of separation…but that changed just a few months ago…
JM: Where were you when you found out that TPS got extended?
E: I think it was during school. My mom told me and I just…I felt so happy. There was such a relief, like, you prepare for the worst outcome and you’re pleasantly surprised when it’s not that outcome. But when it got extended, you know, we could breathe.
I really just want to enjoy my life as a kid and not worry about my parents having to leave and going to tell my little brother, Mommy and Daddy are going away for right now. Everything’s gonna be okay, you know? Not having to worry how to have that discussion with him. And, having TPS extended just kind of gave me that relief I needed in the moment.
But the relief is temporary… their extension is only for one year.
After the break… how Emily’s family has prepared for the possibility of deportation.
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Because they are on borrowed time in the US… Emily’s parents, Maria and Jose, have had to make some difficult decisions in case they get deported… like leaving their two children with family friends.
So Maria sat down for another StoryCorps conversation with Lynette Craig… who would actually be repaying the favor… because here’s the thing… Maria helped Lynette raise her kids over the last ten years… as the family’s nanny. Lynette starts the conversation…
Lynette Craig (LC): It’s difficult to articulate how important your presence has been in my life over the last 10 years. You’ve held my hand through really difficult times, and I didn’t know when we first got to know each other, and I handed my babies over to you, how much you would mean to me in the coming years.
MR: It is a sacred thing for me because I know that there is nothing more important in your life after you have a kid than that baby.
LC: Seeing you comfort my children when I wasn’t there, I can’t quite articulate the gift that that is as a mother.
MR: Well, I’m guaranteeing you that any other mother understand that feeling because I do.
LC: What are you most afraid of if you have to leave?
MR: I’m afraid of the scar this whole process will leave. Whatever that outcome at the end, it is already scarring my sweet little girl.
LC: My biggest fear is that I won’t be there for Emily the way that you could be. And I know no one could be. But the little moments are the things that scare me the most; like when she’s had a bad day, or she’s going to a dance and she needs her mom to make her feel pretty. I know that I can do my best; there’s just a difference. So that responsibility looms heavily in that I just know that I can’t be you for her.
I know that you and I are right with each other but I never ever want the rest of the world to feel as though this is some sort of charitable act on my part because I could never return what it is that you’ve given me and I’ll never be able to repay that debt. But I want you to know that, if you have to leave her, she’s going to be OK.
MR: I see the way you hug my daughter, and see how comfortable she is on your arms. So in a sense, I know that it doesn’t matter what happens to me, you are there for her. She loves you, and you love her.
That’s Maria Rivas with Lynette Craig for StoryCorps…
Maria and her husband, Jose, have legal protection to stay in the US until January 2021… one year from now.
That’s all for this episode of the StoryCorps podcast. It was produced by Jud Esty-Kendall, Sylvie Lubow and Afi Yellow-Duke… edited by me… Jasmyn Morris. Our production assistant is Eleanor Vassili. Jarrett Floyd is our technical director. Fact-checking by Natsumi Ajisaka. And special thanks to StoryCorps producers Mia Warren, Camila Kerwin… and facilitator Grace Pauley.
You can find out what music we used and see original artwork for this episode on our website… storycorps.org.
For the StoryCorps podcast, I’m Jasmyn Morris. Thanks for listening.