Washington Woman’s Story Illustrates Plight of Undocumented Immigrant Parents

Putting a human face on the sometimes abstract debate regarding U.S. immigration policy, the News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, recently profiled a local resident whose immigration status has caused strife for herself and her family.

The subject of the News Tribune feature, Tara Ammons Cohen, is a 39-year-old woman who was brought to the United States as an infant but never went through the naturalization process. Her citizenship status exacerbated the consequences of her struggle with substance abuse; her 2008 arrest on a drug charge landed her in a federal immigration detention center in Tacoma, where she remained for nearly three years.

Though she was released and reunited with her family last August, her time away from them and the limitations placed on her as an undocumented resident have strained her relationship with her husband and her two sons, ages 11 and 14.

Without a green card, work permit or any other employment authorization document, Ammons Cohen – a one-time teacher’s assistant and bus driver – cannot get a job. The news source described how difficult it is for the family to get by on her husband’s wages as a logger. He gets up at 2:45 a.m. for work and must chop wood in his spare time for extra income.

Ammons Cohen told the newspaper she is thrilled to be with her sons again but sometimes finds it challenging to relate to them, having missed out on all the experiences they went through while she was in detention.

Having worked with police after being assaulted at the age of 17,  Ammons Cohen has applied for a U visa, which is granted to some illegal immigrant crime victims. But the News Tribune reported she could ultimately be deported to Mexico, despite the fact that she has lived in the United States her whole life and does not speak Spanish.

While Ammons Cohen’s children would be able to live with their father should she be deported, many children find themselves entering the foster care system after their parents are forced to leave the country. According to a recent Applied Research Center report, there are more than 5,000 children in the U.S. foster care system due to the deportation of a parent or parents.