3 On Your Side Investigates: Undocumented - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates: Undocumented

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The video went viral. An undocumented father dropping his kids off at a California school, handcuffed and taken away. The inconsolable cries of his 13-year-old daughter gripped hearts and left many wondering if this could happen at other schools.

It has not happened in Mississippi, but in this 3 On Your Side Investigation, we find out how being undocumented is keeping families around the state on edge.

"I love my husband so much," said Cari. "I would die if something happened to him."

This is the young wife of an undocumented man who has lived in Mississippi since 2007. They have 3 children, who are 4, 3 and 2.

"He's been here since he was a child," said Cari. "If he went back to where he was from, he wouldn't know that place."

She is so fearful that we are changing her name and not revealing where she lives in Mississippi. We will call her Cari.

Since the case in California where the father was picked up, Cari says she counts the hours when her husband is working. She says there is no way he will drop off their oldest child for kindergarten.

"Him having the fear of going to drop his daughter off and then one day there's immigration standing outside the school you know," explained Cari. "And they take him right there in front of our daughter and our sons."

They are high school sweethearts who thought they could make a life in this country, for themselves and their children.

"He's not a criminal and I don't understand why it's so wrong for him to be here just because he doesn't have papers," added Cari.

Patricia Ice, with MIRA, the Mississippi Immigrants Right's Alliance says immigration officers or ICE agents should not be allowed on school property.

"It creates, in the minds of children, that the person who is being taken is a criminal when in fact that person is not a criminal," explained Ice, Legal Project Director for MIRA. "It criminalizes people."

MIRA is working to help families like Cari's, but right now they too say there is too much uncertainty, too much expense, and too much fear for families and their children in and out of the classroom.

"It's a tremendous amount of stress to put upon a child particularly in elementary school," said Bill Chandler, Executive Director of MIRA. "But all the way through. You know they think maybe they'll come home and there won't be family there. That their mothers, their fathers might be taken away."

"He has to go back to Mexico to get his VISA and once he gets there, it's not 100% sure if he'll be able to come back even if he goes." said Cari.

According to the State Department of Education there are a little over 1,200 immigrant students attending schools in Mississippi. 

In a statement, we were told MDE has not been contacted by federal agents regarding immigrant students or their parents. 

Cari says the most she can hope for is understanding and compassion. She says her family gets no special benefits, in fact she says in many ways, it's harder for them.

"My husband has to pay in full for everything," explained Cari. "If he goes to a doctor, he has to pay in full. If he has to have surgery, we have to pay up front everything."

Cari says even as an American, she is like so many other wives and husbands across the country whose lives are in limbo and chaos.

Instead of preparing for her daughter's first day of kindergarten in the fall, she is wondering if she will have to explain why her Daddy is not with their family.

A breakdown of the number of immigrant students in schools around the state shows DeSoto County has the highest number at 165.  There are 22 in the Hinds County School District, 88 in Clinton Schools, 30 in Leake, 28 in Canton, 33 in Pearl and 57 in Scott County Schools.

Statement from Mississippi Department of Education APR Communications Specialist Jean Gordon Cook released a statement saying: 

The MDE has not been contacted by any federal agents regarding immigrant students. We would not expect to be contacted because federal law protects the right of all children to attend public school, even children who may be undocumented immigrants.

State Board of Education policy requires districts to verify residency. The state health department determines immunization requirements. Local districts may require additional documentation, such as a birth certificate. According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, a school district may not ask about a child's citizenship or immigration status to establish residency in a district, nor may a school district deny a homeless child (including a homeless child who is undocumented) enrollment because they can't provide the required documents to establish residency.

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