Jorge’s mom fled an abusive husband and Mexico. With baby Jorge on her hip, a daughter clasping a hand, and her eldest son in tow, Maricela traveled north. She had a sister already in Minnesota.
It’s been about a decade since they landed stateside. The family rents a duplex near a highway. The sidewalk is decorated in trash. There's an old mattress propped up on the front porch.
Maricela takes the bus six days a week to a southwest suburb, where she works at a Chipotle. She’s added a second daughter and third son to her brood. Her eldest daughter, now a teenager, helps take care of the baby girl.
Jorge attends a Minneapolis school. He’s a handsome kid, with fudge brown eyes, skin of an Aveda model, and a raven mane he often ropes into a bun atop his head.
He doesn’t know who Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is even though the lawmaker was recently speaking to him.
Earlier this week, during an interview on CNN, King argued the children of undocumented immigrants, who were initially brought to America when they were little, should snitch on their parents who arrived here illegally.
“If it was against their will,” said King, “then it had to be their parents who are responsible. And I’m still waiting for the first [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipient to say so and sign an affidavit that says, ‘I didn’t really do this on my own accord. My parents brought me in. They should have the law enforced against them. Give me amnesty.’”
The Deferred Action initiative provides temporary relief from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who work or go to school. About 750,000 young people fall under it.
That would include Jorge. He would prefer to be on the soccer field than attempt to answer a reporter’s questions that only seem to confuse the 11 year old.
“I don’t remember about when we came,” he says. “I was small. Am I supposed to say we came, the four of us, together? I don’t really understand, you know. And who are these peoples who want to know about us coming?”
It’s easy to understand why Jorge doesn’t get it. Family dinner discussions, Maricela says, don't include revisiting the details about how they skirted immigration policies.
Maricela wasn't aware of King's statements. She keeps her worries to herself anyway. Children shouldn't be thinking of things like deportation or mothers going to jail.
"I am not scared," she says. "I am too busy. Let the man talk. He is allowed to say what is it he thinks. Life in United States is hard, expensive. The children need clothes and food. I have our life to worry about."
Jorge slowly starts to grasp what King wants him to do.
“Tell tale on her? Is that how you say or something like that?” he says. “No. No way. My mom, she works hard, you know. All the time she works. When she’s not, she’s here, cleaning our house, always cleaning — or cooking. My mom, she’s a good cook.”
If his mom did break a law, could it be that there’s something wrong with that law? wonders Jorge.
“Because my mom didn’t fill out a paperwork or something, she’s not allowed to be here no more?”
The truths inside the youngster’s heart are few and simple: He likes America, though he welcomes the day he has his own bedroom. And Maricela is the bedrock of his existence.
“She is my mom and my dad. She is both,” he says. “My mom, she does everything for us, you know. She always is doing her best. She loves her family. That is why she brought us to the United States, I think.”
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