It was just after school got out, on one of those blinding, bright days in Phoenix, when 10-year-old Angel Marin learned that his mom was gone. He was walking home from class with his older sister Yesi. They ducked through the iron gate to the largely Mexican trailer park where they lived and passed the blooming rosebush and the rainbow-rod swing set.

Their mother, Gloria, had been arrested, and the kids didn’t know why.

“Nobody told us anything,” Yesi says.

On the morning after Gloria’s arrest, April 22, 2010, Evelyn, Yesi, Angel, and Briza pulled on their backpacks and left for school. They made a pact not to say a word to anyone — not their friends, not their teachers, not the kids at church. Angel knew that if he spoke, he could cry, and he didn’t want anyone to see. He kept his head down that day, and when friends asked him what was up, he shot back, “Nothing.” That afternoon, a manager from the trailer park came knocking. “You got to leave,” he told them. “We don’t want this kind of drama here.” The kids threw their clothes, movies, dolls, and video games into big black trash bags and set out from the neighborhood.

Roughly half a million U.S.-born children lost a parent to arrest, detention, and deportation between 2009 and 2013. Most of those who lose a single mom or dad, like the Marins, move in with extended family or friends. But if no one is there to care for them, the child welfare system takes control. At the time that Gloria was arrested, Arizona’s Child Protective Services (CPS) had slipped into crisis. In response to the recession, the state had cut the agency’s budget and laid off hundreds of workers just as a swell of kids entered the system.

Yesi thought about staying. She could get a job on the Arizona side of the border and spend the nights with Gloria. She regretted not going to Nogales sooner, when Briza did. But her daughter’s dad was in the U.S., and she had school to finish. Life was in Arizona. So four months after she arrived, she caught a bus back north. When she got to Phoenix, she spent a week in bed, ignoring her mom’s calls. She didn’t have it in her to hear her voice.

Read the source article at The California Sunday Magazine