Oklahoma City mom, an undocumented immigrant, has five children who are US citizens
She fears her family will be separated when Donald Trump takes office
With tears in her eyes Lili explains her deportation contingency plan.
She plans to sell her house and take her three youngest children to Mexico. Her eldest children, who are 17 and 15, want to stay in Oklahoma to work and help her make a living, she says.
“It’s heartbreaking to think about that,” Lili says, her voice cracking. “We’ve always been together.”
That’s why Lili, who is only sharing her first name, says she challenges President-elect Donald Trump to live the life of an undocumented immigrant for one day. If he did, she says, “it would open up his heart” because of the pain and struggles that immigrant mothers like her live everyday.
“I want him to share one day of having to live in the shadows,” Lili says. “I want him to put himself in my shoes.”
Lili has lived in Oklahoma City for 20 years. She was brought to the United States from Mexico as a child and now has five children of her own. They are all US citizens, ages 2 to 17.
She says she feels threatened in a Trump America because of the President-elect’s promise to undo President Obama’s 2012 executive action on immigration.
She qualified for DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program created through that executive action. It gave people who came to the United States as children a temporary stay in the United States in 2012. But her temporary work permit expires in January, when President-elect Trump takes office.
“I would become illegal again,” Lili says. “I would have to leave the country.”
“I wish Donald [Trump] would see what we have to go through,” she adds. “He has kids. Would he like for his kids to be taken away from him?”
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of immigrants in Oklahoma share Lili’s anguish. Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants across the United States, about 95,000 of them are in Oklahoma, according to the Pew Research Center.
Melissa Lujan, an immigration lawyer in Oklahoma City, says her phone has not stopped ringing since the election. Her clients, she says, want to know how to survive a Trump presidency.
“[For] most people, the biggest fear that they have is that immigration is going to come to their door tomorrow, pick up their family members and take them away,” Lujan says.
Lujan says children also fear their parents will get deported while they’re at school.
To prepare for what some immigrants see as an Armageddon, Lujan says, they are spending as little money as possible, putting their homes up for sale and checking with immigration attorneys about their options. And while she wishes she could have words of hope for them, Lujan says their fears are justified. If President-elect Trump keeps his word, she says, they could all end up deported.
“We have no idea what is going to come from the next administration,” Lujan says. “And the President completely has the control to take some pretty significant action.”
Mass exodus of immigrants
Oklahoma City has seen this widespread fear in the immigrant community before.
It happened in 2007, when HB 1804, an immigration bill passed by the Oklahoma Legislature, became law. At the time, it was one of the strictest state immigration laws in the country. Among other things, it made it illegal to transport or house an undocumented immigrant.
For Lili, it was a nightmare. The terror was unleashed, she says, when immigration agents knocked on her door on her son’s birthday.
She was fingerprinted and then let go, she says. But the word on the street about “redadas,” or immigration raids, spread quickly, she remembers. And so did the fear.
In a panic, Lili says she fled to another state, leaving her US-born children behind with family.
“I would hate to go through that again,” Lili says. “I slept in my car for like two weeks.”
She remembers seeing vacant homes in the immigrant community as she drove out of town. The people who stayed behind, she says, avoided going to the store; some stopped sending their children to school.
Lili returned to Oklahoma City three months later, when she thought it was safe to return, and because she couldn’t live without her children.
“I have no kids, I have no life,” Lili says.
Crime went unreported
According to Oklahoma City police spokesperson Capt. Paco Balderrama, one of the unintended consequences of the 2007 state immigration law was the under-reporting of crime in the immigrant community.
The immigration law required law enforcement to make an effort to determine citizenship in some arrest cases. And even though police were not raiding people’s homes, says Balderrama, the perception that they were became reality for many immigrants.
“The root fear is that the police are going to become, basically, that door-to-door extension of immigration laws,” Balderrama says. “And historically, it’s never been our role. Never. That would be a new role for law enforcement, despite what people say.”
When asked if the fear of deportation led to unreported crime, Balderrama says, “Absolutely.”
The police department responded to the widespread fear by reaching out to the Hispanic community through appearances on Spanish language radio and television, expanding the bilingual police unit and translating police report forms to Spanish.
“A lot of people criticized us for that [and say] ‘Why do you do that? They should learn how to speak English.’ Well it doesn’t help us to not have those documents. To have them not fill out a police report,” Balderrama says.
Paralyzing fear post-election
Lili remembers feeling paralyzed with fear in 2007 after the state immigration law passed in Oklahoma. But the fear of a Trump America is much worse for her, she says, because this time, the threat of deportation is not isolated to her state, it’s nationwide.
It’s a looming worry, she says, that would ultimately separate her from her children. For now, she kisses them goodbye every morning when she drops them off at school, cherishing every moment she shares with them.
When asked about Trump’s interview with “60 Minutes,” in which he said he would focus on deporting 3 million undocumented immigrants, Lili says she is skeptical.
“Being Donald Trump, no, I don’t believe him,” Lili says.
CNN has reached out to Trump’s team for comment and has not received a response.
CNN’s Brad Parks contributed to this report.