One Woman, 817 Children: Caring For Kids Of Undocumented Parents

Nora Sandigo sits with Ronald Soza and his sister Cecia in 2009, while the children were on a hunger strike to protest the deportation of their mother. Sandigo is the legal guardian of the Soza children (now 15 and 18) — and 815 other American children of undocumented immigrants. i i

Nora Sandigo sits with Ronald Soza and his sister Cecia in 2009, while the children were on a hunger strike to protest the deportation of their mother. Sandigo is the legal guardian of the Soza children (now 15 and 18) — and 815 other American children of undocumented immigrants. Lynne Sladky/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Lynne Sladky/AP
Nora Sandigo sits with Ronald Soza and his sister Cecia in 2009, while the children were on a hunger strike to protest the deportation of their mother. Sandigo is the legal guardian of the Soza children (now 15 and 18) — and 815 other American children of undocumented immigrants.

Nora Sandigo sits with Ronald Soza and his sister Cecia in 2009, while the children were on a hunger strike to protest the deportation of their mother. Sandigo is the legal guardian of the Soza children (now 15 and 18) — and 815 other American children of undocumented immigrants.

Lynne Sladky/AP

The recent increase in the number of unaccompanied, undocumented minors immigrating across the border has left tens of thousands of children waiting in limbo. But thousands of children who are already American citizens also face an uncertain future — because their parents are not in the country legally.

If their parents get deported, those minors could end up in foster care, or adopted by strangers.

Nora Sandigo is the legal guardian of 817 American children of undocumented immigrants. Should a parent be deported, Sandigo steps in to arrange care for the children they leave behind. In many cases she cares for the children herself, temporarily. Eventually, they are placed with family or family friends who receive background screenings and get support from Sandigo as needed.

She receives no support from federal or state government; in addition to her own money, Sandigo draws on volunteers, donors and churches in the community to help care for the children.

Through an interpreter, Sandigo tells NPR's Arun Rath that one of the hardest parts of caring for the children is providing moral support.

"That is the part that breaks our heart, but we know that we have to be there for them and be strong," she says. "We have to lift their spirits and tell them, 'Everything will be OK, one day you'll be reunited, one day you'll have justice and everything will be resolved. Meanwhile, study hard in school to make your parents proud.'

"The children have problems focusing in school. They have problems sleeping; they don't want to interact with other people or talk to other people about what's going on. It is easier for them to talk to me because they trust me with their problems. This is important not just for society, but for America's future — to raise good kids, not kids with problems due to the fact that no one forms a connection with them."

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