Special Reports

For Arlington mother, life is equal parts fear and panic

Hilda, 38, is scared to open her door or pick up her children from their nearby high school.

Those fears intensified about six months ago when President Donald Trump took office. Then, he signed executive orders that put a focus on policing immigration laws and made all immigrants who lacked legal status a priority for enforcement.

Now, she is waiting to see how passage of Texas Senate Bill 4, which allows police to question people’s immigration status during traffic stops, will touch her life.

Hilda, an undocumented worker who cleans houses in North Texas, has three American-born children — a 20-year-old, 16-year-old and a 15-year-old.

Her husband doesn’t have immigration papers either. Hilda has a family survival plan that includes having emergency phone numbers and telling her children “If I’m not on time when you get out of school, call your sister.”

Hilda’s oldest daughter would take custody of the two younger children through a power of attorney, Hilda said, describing different scenarios that involve being detained in the United States or deported after a raid or traffic stop.

“Sometimes, I’m scared,” she explained in Spanish. “You don’t know when it’s going to happen — when police or immigration is going to stop you.”

Hilda, who lives in Arlington, didn’t want her full name published because she fears deportation. Crime and lack of opportunity prompted her to leave the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. She had family members in the United States so in the mid-1990s she paid a “coyote,” or human smuggler, about $800 for a chance to live in the United States.

In 2001, Hilda filled out paperwork that she hoped would help her obtain a green card, or permission to work and live in the United States. She expected Section 245 (i) of the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act would help her to get immigration status through her children.

She said she doesn’t know if that paperwork will help keep her American life from collapsing.

“It’s the American Dream,” she said. “It’s a dream. You don’t know when it is going to end.”

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1