One of many families failed by America’s immigration process

By Angelica Pipitone
September 29, 2019

Creative Commons Zero

Between the years of 2009 and 2013, according to the Washington Post, about 3.7 million people were deported from the United States. Unfortunately, my father was one of them. I still remember being woken up that morning by a phone call and hearing my father’s sad, familiar voice through the phone.

He was being deported and wanted to call me to say goodbye, I remember immediately thinking, “it’s OK, he’ll be back, everything will be OK.” This was the mantra that I would repeat to myself for years, each time that I felt the sting of my father’s absence. I was 12 years old when I got that call and would be 19 years old the first and last time that I would see my father again.


With immigration being such a prominent topic, there had been many things that I’d heard throughout my life about immigrants that simply were not true. Until I was older and trying to get my father back into the country, I believed what others had said about immigrants being granted citizenship upon having a child born in the United States, but according to the Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security, a child must be 21 years of age before being able to sponsor a parent for citizenship, and even then the process could take years to complete. After discovering this, I promised my father that in two years I would begin the process of making him a citizen, and that until then I would come to visit him in Canada, where he was staying.

Unfortunately, I would never get the reunion that I dreamt of having with my father. Six years after his deportation, when I finally did get to see my father, it was through an emergency passport that I was granted because my father was no longer going to be living. Shortly after promising my father that I would do everything in my power to make him a citizen once I was able to, he suffered a heart attack and was left brain-dead and in a coma.

According to the American Immigration Council a child’s risk of developing mental health problems and severe psychological distress increases following the detention or deportation of a parent. My father’s absence certainly affected and continues to affect me mentally and emotionally, but leaning on my community and standing in solidarity with others in the same or similar situations has helped. As an immigrant or ally, it is important that rights are known. A helpful website is the ACLU website which can be read in English or Spanish.

Photo by Angelica Pipitone

This is the last photo ever taken of my father and me. He and every other immigrant in my life and community are the inspiration for my strength and advocacy. I have hope that someday families in the United States will be able to live without fear of being ripped apart, and that becoming a citizen will be a more equitable process.


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Angelica Pipitone

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