© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Family Celebrates Another Year Together, After Father Was Almost Deported


Of all the people I spoke with in 2018, one who stuck with me the most was a man we called Manuel. We didn't use his full name because of his immigration status. My producers and I followed his story for months through his time in an immigration detention facility...


MANUEL: (Through interpreter) Sometimes I've seen animals in our food, people's hair in the food. It's awful.

SHAPIRO: ...Through his kids' struggles to get by without their father...


ALEX: Once they took him, my grades went down.

SHAPIRO: ...And through a court case that looked like it would end in deportation.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: That respondent shall be removed from the United States.

SHAPIRO: After a dramatic reversal, Manuel was allowed to stay in the country, and that's where we left his story back in January, with the family finally reunited back in the Pacific Northwest.


ALEX: Thank you for letting my whole family be together once again. Amen.


SHAPIRO: Almost a year later, we asked Manuel back into the studio. He was joined by his oldest son, who's 20. We're not using his name because his future under DACA is uncertain. I started by asking Manuel to bring us up to speed on what's happened in the last year.

MANUEL: (Through interpreter) Well, I'm working legally. I finally received my work permit, which I have to renew every year. My next appointment with immigration is in February, so I'm a little nervous because of the way things are now. You never know.

But I have faith in God that everything will be OK. I feel really glad to be with my family celebrating a lot of happy moments with them. Honestly, I felt that in previous years, I didn't enjoy them because I hadn't had an experience like this one. And after that, I think I was reborn, and I enjoy them all more day to day.

SHAPIRO: Let's turn now to your oldest son, who's there with you. The last time we spoke, you had dropped out of college so that you could work and help support your family while your father was in detention. What's happened over the last year?

UNIDENTIFIED SON: You know, still trying to recover - still trying to recover financially, still trying to recover emotionally a little bit still. You know, I'm obviously in a lot better place than I was a whole year ago. But the way things are going within the government and stuff like that, you know, things are very unsettling, very unknown. So, you know, that fear factor is still there.

SHAPIRO: You have DACA status, which is a temporary protection for people who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. With that program's future uncertain, how has it been for you trying to plan your next steps?

UNIDENTIFIED SON: Man, it's been tough, been real tough. I have a whole future planned out, and I have a whole life ahead of me. And it's almost unsettling to think that I could possibly go to somewhere that I have no idea what it's like. Like, what am I supposed to do? All I know is here.

SHAPIRO: I want to play you a clip from that story that we aired in the beginning of 2018. And this was a moment when your father had had a setback in his case. A judge had denied his request to stay in the United States, and it looked likely that he would be deported. We got you on the phone right after that day in court. And this is what you said.


UNIDENTIFIED SON: I mean, if things go down, I mean, I might as well leave too. I might as well go back to a country I've never been to. You know, this is the American dream. You know? You're living it.

SHAPIRO: What's your reaction to hearing that? How do you feel now, almost a year later?

UNIDENTIFIED SON: The same way. If it goes down, like - or my parents have to go back, I'm not going to stay here in a country that doesn't want me. I'm not going to put all my effort into a country that is in a way taking us for granted.

SHAPIRO: There has been so much news about immigration and the border all this year. It seems every time you turn on the news, there are stories, whether it's a caravan or detention centers. Having been through what you've been through, what is it like for you to watch that?

MANUEL: (Through interpreter) Honestly, my heart hurts seeing all those people. And every time I hear the news, sincerely tears come to my eyes, especially thinking about all these people who have been arrested, the kids who have died, two kids that have died up to now and the places they keep you because I was in those places. As an adult, you can endure them. But an innocent child - wow. Sincerely, from my heart, I don't wish that on anyone. The only thing we want - we come to a place to work, searching for better opportunities for our kids.

SHAPIRO: I'd love for your son to answer that same question. What was it like for you seeing the news about immigration over the last year?

UNIDENTIFIED SON: I try and stay away from the news as much as I can. But every time I do see it, it - once again, it opens up that scar in my heart. You know what I mean? So the easiest way to try and block that out is just by trying to avoid it. But to think that, you know, there's kids and families and stuff like that being detained and kids dying from sicknesses and - it's terrible.

It's not even - it's ridiculous. It's like they're - we're all humans. We all have feelings. We all feel the same way. We're not robots. We're not aliens. We're not none of that. We're people. We're people with hearts, with blood, with the same thing that Trump has in his body. We have the same thing.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like you're saying you feel like the government views you and your family and others like you as something less than human.

UNIDENTIFIED SON: Yeah. Well, we've been dehumanized. And it's so upsetting. You know, I don't even like to say it. I don't even like to think that we've been put in this position. But from what I'm seeing, that's what it seems like.

SHAPIRO: Is there one happy moment from the last year that you can describe for us that you're very thankful for?

MANUEL: (Through interpreter) Well, honestly, I'm thankful every day. And every day is happy for me. But sharing birthdays with every one of my kids, I think those were the most special moments for me. And to spend my birthday with them here, I'm really thankful for that day to my wife and my four sons.

SHAPIRO: And your son - do you want to tell us a memory from the last year that you'll especially treasure?

UNIDENTIFIED SON: As soon as that question came up, you know, it brought me to tears because we all took a road trip to the Oregon Coast to visit one of my pop's friends. I was in - locked up with him. And we all took a beautiful road trip to the Oregon Coast. And it was a moment and a trip I'll cherish forever because we were all together. And it was joyful, and it was happy. And it was nice to hear someone else's story that was with my dad too. So that was probably one of the happiest times that I had all summer.

SHAPIRO: It's so good to talk to you both again. Thank you, and Happy New Year.

UNIDENTIFIED SON: I appreciate it.

MANUEL: Gracias.

SHAPIRO: That's Manuel and his 20-year-old son speaking with us a year after Manuel was released from an immigration detention facility.