From CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla
No matter what your views are regarding immigration laws in this country, it's tough to watch the story we have for you.
It's about what they call "mixed-status families" -- families made up of both legal and illegal residents who are trying to stay together despite being separated by immigration laws that they have violated.
Take Jose Zaragoza, a legal resident since 1987. He met Ana, the woman he wanted to marry, while visiting Mexico. They married, then waited and waited to get legal papers to bring her into the country. When their patience ran out, Ana came into the U.S. illegally to join her husband, and they had two children, Daniel and Steven.
But Ana eventually paid the price for sneaking into the country. She was deported and now lives in Mexico, away from her kids, who -- because they were born in the U.S. -- are automatically American citizens. They see each other maybe every six months. They must choose between staying in the U.S., where they can build on what their father has done for the past 30 years, without their mother, or they can move to Mexico to live as a family, forfeiting the life in America they legally deserve.
This struggle to maintain family unity is the struggle of a whole generation of Latino Americans. The numbers are staggering. More than 3.1 million American children have at least one illegal immigrant parent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. And two out of three children with an undocumented parent are citizens living in mixed-status families.
How do they manage to see or visit their deported mother or father? Sometimes by driving across the border on weekends. If they live far from the U.S.-Mexico border, it's obviously much tougher to see parents on a regular basis. The Zaragozas have been married for 16 years, but they've only lived together for six years.
None of this changes the fact that these families, in most cases, broke the law. And anti-immigration advocates argue the U.S. isn't tearing families apart. The law is the law, they say, and mixed-status families are always welcome to reunite in their country of origin.
But what about the children who are born here, through no choice of their own? Although they're natural-born citizens, they're born into a life of family turmoil -- unaware of the ways in which the debate over immigration in this country is altering their daily lives.
We think the story of these families offers a chance to look at how complex the immigration debate is in the U.S. None of the proposed solutions offers easy answers. Even maintaining the status quo creates real hardship for some families.
It's part of the experience of Latinos in America. And, for better or worse, it will shape the way Latinos view this country, as they become a more formidable force in American culture, politics and policy.