Undocumented mom goes door to door asking others to vote

Candidates' position on immigration prompts moms' calls for action

DAVIE, Fla. – After her eldest son graduated from high school, Claudia Saucedo went with him to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. He was interested in a career related to media arts and video games.

Saucedo said she told an admissions employee that she and her son were both undocumented. Without the legal status required to qualify for student loans or financial aid, the Art Institute closed the door. 

He was willing to work to pay for tuition. But Saucedo said the Art Institute employee discouraged him and said it would all go to waste if he got deported.

"They told us, 'Don't waste your money.' They were very cruel. That day, they crushed his dream," Saucedo, 48, said in Spanish. "He is 28 and he is a hard worker. He works installing garage doors."

Saucedo is a domestic worker and lives in a mobile home in Broward’s town of Davie. While she has been waiting with bated breath to find out who the next U.S. president will be, she is among the undocumented moms who have been campaigning, making phone calls and going door to door to ask others to vote.

They fear this election will define whether or not their families will be able to continue living in South Florida.

"There is no greater pain than that of an undocumented family," Saucedo said. "Most of us do everything for our children. We never imagined mothers would be separated from their children against their will. They don’t let them contact anyone, they don’t let them collect their things. You live with that fear."

During an economic meltdown in 2001, Saucedo left Resistencia, a city in north-eastern Argentina. There was widespread unemployment. Noisy protests turned into deadly rioting, and she didn't see a future for her children there. When they moved to the U.S., they were 13, 11, 3 and the youngest was 1.

Saucedo worries about voters siding with Donald Trump. Some of his supporters view her as a "law breaker." Some consider immigration reform "amnesty," and refer to the estimated 295,000 U.S. born children of undocumented parents as “anchor babies.” 

Saucedo volunteers for DREAMers' Moms and other advocacy groups pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. She spent hours helping others to register to vote. 

"I go out and protest and campaign and knock on doors, because I want everyone to know that we exist," Saucedo said. "When you are undocumented, you lose your dignity. I have been paying taxes for years, yet I don’t have a document that accepts me as a real person in this country."

President Barack Obama, she said, restored her faith in politics. His two executive actions on immigration permits – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans – changed her family.

While her 28 and 26-year-old sons became legal residents, her two teenagers remained in school.

DACA was in place when her 18-year-old son graduated from Western High School in Davie earlier this year. He is now among the 50,216 children of undocumented migrant parents in Florida who qualified for Obama’s DACA, a temporary deportation reprieve and work permit program. Her 16-year-old daughter also qualified. 

"Every time one of my kids was able to change their status, it was a triumph," Saucedo said. 

Saucedo's joy was short lived. Twenty-six Republican-led states sued the federal government over DACA and DAPA. They argued Obama’s executive orders issuing the permits to illegals disregarded the separation of powers -- and Congress writes the laws.

Her "fight" intensified when the Supreme Court deadlocked the eight-justice court in a 4-4 decision earlier this year -- blocking DAPA and the DACA permits renewals. After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, Republicans refused to consider Obama’s nominee.

Since the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to revisit the deadlocked immigration case, Saucedo and other undocumented mothers are risking arrest and deportation by going public with their struggle, because they believe Hillary Clinton is their last reprieve.

About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.