- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - On a cold Friday in December, Jose Salcido, a deputy police chief, sat with his family as a parade of performers honored him at a community center in northwest Wichita.

In September, Salcido had been sworn in as Wichita’s first Hispanic deputy chief, and members of the community had come to celebrate, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/2hNh1u3 ) reported.

Boys in black sombreros and poofy neck-bows twirled young girls in pleated skirts and embroidered blouses as mariachi music played.

Jazmin and Jaylin Jaquez, 4 and 5, had been running around the room playfully and mischievously, but now they stopped and sat rapt, with their heads resting on folded arms.

In the back, Miriam Nunez, 28, their mother, stood with a few of the other women who had helped decorate the place settings at the banquet.

Nunez had, in many ways, a parallel story to Salcido’s. Both had been brought to the U.S. as children by their parents, Salcido at 9, Nunez at 7, and both had since then come to work as public servants, Salcido for the police, Nunez for the schools.

Salcido was the beneficiary of an immigration law in the late 1980s that allowed him to earn his citizenship in 1995. Salcido worked his way up to become a pillar of the Wichita community.

Nunez’s family brought her to the U.S. in 1995, too late to qualify. Congress has not passed a major immigration law since.

Her three daughters, 4, 5 and 10, are American-born citizens, but her and her husband’s immigration status is now in limbo.

So while it was a proud moment for Salcido, it was a nerve-wracking time for Nunez: She is afraid that, without the protection of law, when Donald Trump takes office in January, her family could be split apart.

The number of immigrants in the U.S. who are here without permission fell by about a million after the recession in 2008 and has since then held steady at about 11 million, according to most estimates. But immigration authorities don’t look at them all the same way.

Nunez is one of a few thousand Kansans, mostly Hispanics, who were brought to the U.S. as young children and who in 2012 applied for a special status called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, along with another 750,000 across the country.

The program allowed Nunez to move from being scared to earn money for her children at a local fast-food restaurant to working in a classroom as a teacher’s aide in Wichita Public Schools.

The program was enacted by the Obama administration to give stability to the lives of people like Nunez, who were not considered a priority for deportation. But because it was an executive action, the program could be revoked by the next president.

That means everything is up in the air for Nunez. To apply for the program, Nunez had to tell the government everything about her life, including where she lived and worked.

President-elect Trump said during his campaign that he would send all 11 million undocumented immigrants back to their native countries, but at other times, he has said he would focus only on criminals.

Nunez recently latched on to an interview in Time that hinted Trump might not be as hard on her family as she had feared.

“They were brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here,” Trump told Time about the immigrants in question. “Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s to happen.

“We’re going to work something out,” he said. “On a humanitarian basis, it’s a very tough situation.”

W. Michael Sharma-Crawford, an immigration lawyer in Kansas City, Mo., said he’s been telling DACA clients like Nunez that they can travel now but they should be back in the country by Jan. 20, when Trump takes office.

He thinks that, instead of revoking the program entirely, the Trump administration may just let the permits expire.

Nunez renewed her permit in December. It is good for two more years before it expires.

But after that, she’s unsure of what might happen. Her family could be forced to return to a country she has not lived in since she was 7, more than 20 years ago.

“Now that they have all my information, they can come and just deport us,” Nunez said. “I want to have faith that it won’t happen, but that’s what I fear, them coming into my door and taking me away from my girls. … They already know where I live and where I work, and they would just come and get me.”

Two days before the banquet, Nunez sat with Jaylin at the kitchen table as she tried to pronounce a word in her kindergarten book.

“Bears,” Jaylin said, as she moved her fingers underneath the word.

“You guessed?” Nunez asked.

“No,” Jaylin said. “My teacher read the book to us.”

Earlier that week, Nunez had received notice that her DACA permit had been renewed until 2018. But it was a few days too late.

Nunez sent in her application in August, but there was a mix-up with a form that slowed her application process. That meant that when her two-year DACA permit expired in November, she had to stop working.

The principal at Gardiner Elementary, where Nunez worked, said she could hold Nunez’s job for two weeks, but then she had to fill the position. When Nunez called three weeks later with the good news, the job had already been filled.

“You can have one piece,” Nunez told her youngest daughter, Jazmin, 4. Nunez kept her children’s Halloween candy in a cupboard and would allow her kids to have a piece in the evening or sometimes as a treat for the first child out of bed in the morning.

“I told you one,” Nunez said, then switched to Spanish. “Dejalo aqui.”

Jazmin understands Spanish, but she’s the only daughter who has not been back to Mexico and rarely talks in Spanish anymore.

The family mostly speaks Spanish at home. Traditional clothing from Durango, Mexico, hangs on their walls. Nunez’s husband throws rope at Mexican rodeos held in Sedgwick County and, the week before, had led their daughter on a pony in a parade for Catholic saints in downtown Wichita.

Earlier that week, Jaylin received $3 from El Raton de los Dientes, a mouse that, in some Hispanic traditions, gives money to children who put their missing tooth under their pillow.

Alexia, 10, the oldest child, sat next to the TV with Jazmin, who was doing her homework. Alexia is at the top of her class in reading, Nunez bragged.

Alexia isn’t worried about the possibility of the family moving to Mexico, she said. She has visited there during the summer a couple of times, has eaten her grandmother’s cooking and has hung out with her cousins. But she has never been to a Mexican school, where sometimes American Latinos are bullied for being American.

As they sat down to eat, her father was still out working.

“I worry that (Nunez) won’t have a job,” Alexia said. “Or have money to get things, or pay enough for the rent.”

As the holidays approached, Nunez wasn’t worried yet: Her husband, who used to cut and polish granite countertops, had recently started a business to install them. He recently put them in at a new downtown development.

Nunez hopes she can find another job after the holidays, once her permit arrives in the mail.

But even if things work out for Nunez, when Trump takes office, their lives may still change dramatically.

In 2010, Nunez’s husband, who up until that point had been in the country for more than a decade without incident, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Nunez hired a lawyer who recommended that her husband agree to deport himself. Nunez learned later that a more experienced immigration lawyer might have argued that, without any other marks on his record and with a pregnant wife and a daughter at home, he could stay in the U.S. if he stayed out of trouble.

In 2013, Nunez’s husband returned to the U.S. and applied for political asylum. His next hearing is in September.

But the DUI in 2010 has added extra uncertainty to their family: Even if Trump takes mercy on immigrants like Nunez, he might consider immigrants like her husband “a criminal” who should be deported.

No matter what happens, Nunez said, they will not leave by choice.

“I’m going to fight with whatever obstacle comes in my way to stay here with my family,” Nunez said. “I deserve to be united with my family here, because it wasn’t my fault to be brought here. I’m not blaming my parents either, but this is my country, and this is all I know.”

___

Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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