Undocumented mom: Supreme Court crushed my heart
Legal limbo continues for single mom in Miami's Little Haiti
MIAMI – It was with great sacrifice that Carla Hansack bought her 6-year-old daughter a floor-length jeweled white satin princess dress. It had a laced tulle overlay and a matching satin bolero jacket.
The single mom, who works as a housekeeper and nanny in Miami-Dade, barely makes enough to pay the bills in Miami's Little Haiti. But it was Iannie's first graduation ceremony. She had completed kindergarten.
Hansack, 39, said she went over her daughter's homework every day. Earlier this year, Iannie was learning how to write simple sentences. One of her sentences left the undocumented mother from Nicaragua in tears.
"My mom is a citizen," the girl wrote.
"I looked at her homework, and I looked at her," Hansack said. "I just couldn't understand where that was coming from. My heart melted. I have never seen my name next to the word citizen.
"I said to her, 'Do you believe that?' And she said, 'Yes, mommy.'"
Hansack said she avoids using the words "illegal" and "undocumented" around Iannie, who was born in Miami. After some thought, the mom decided to take Iannie's inspiration as a sign from God. She had being thinking about this on Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Barack Obama's plan to help her and millions of other undocumented parents to stay in the U.S.
When Obama unveiled the plan that would have allowed parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, the Republican-led Congress claimed he had overstepped his authority. They have also gotten in the way of his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
With the Supreme Court's split 4-4 ruling Thursday, a 2015 lower-court ruling invalidated Obama's immigration plan. Hansack would no longer be allowed to apply for a three-year renewable work permit and an exemption from deportation.
"The Supreme Court crushed my heart," Hansack said in tears. "I'm heartbroken."
Hansack would have qualified for Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, a plan designed to help some 3.6 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and residents. The plan required applicants to have lived in the U.S. at least before Jan. 1, 2010 and be present in the U.S. since Nov. 20, 2014. A criminal record is a disqualification.
"I haven't stopped crying," Hansack said. "I'm in fear. I can't imagine being away from my daughter."
Hansack has already felt that pain. She had to leave two children behind with relatives when she traveled to the U.S. on Dec. 10, 2008. She still remembers her first Christmas without them. Her children, Ean Reed and Kimberly Elmer, are now 20 and 17. They still live in Bluefields, a Caribbean town that used to be part of British territory. Hansack speaks English fluently.
She left the quiet fishing village when the tourism industry was suffering after the 9/11 attacks. She was the family's sole bread winner as a Royal Caribbean bedroom attendant. Her first husband died during a fishing trip, and her second husband died of alcoholic liver disease.
"We weren't making any money, and they had layoffs. I had to find a way to provide for my kids," Hansack said. "My mom was already living in the United States with my stepfather. It was the right thing at the time."
Hansack was legal until she overstayed her tourist visa. She met a man at a house party and fell in love. She was pregnant when her work permit expired in 2010.
"When I was four months pregnant, he went off with another woman," Hansack said.
Iannie was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Her dad wasn't at the hospital.
"We haven't had a good relationship," Hansack said. Iannie's dad, who is a U.S. citizen, "has threatened to have me deported if I push for child support."
Hansack said she has always wanted to do the right thing. She has been filing taxes every year for the last four years and claims her daughter as a dependent. Last year, she claimed she earned $9,000. And Iannie has Medicaid. She said she is determined to shelter her from the reality, but also feels like it's her responsibility to tell her daughter's story.
When there are police cars, Hansack said she does her best to hide her fear.
"I can't even think about her having to go through life without me," Hansack said. "I know people are cruel. But that's not an option. She doesn't deserve that."
Obama said parents of U.S. citizens are a low priority for immigration authorities. Hansack said she and other parents in South Florida who are living in the same legal limbo are hoping that the president's successor will continue Obama's work. They will be watching the Nov. 8 presidential election closely.
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