Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and you're tuned to "The World". We're a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH here in Boston. One of the biggest stories of the summer and one that we keep coming back to is the one about young Central Americans fleeing violence at home and coming to the US illegally. This next story touches on that, but it's more complicated. It's about a teenager named Carlos who lives with his parents near Boston. They're here in the US under what's called "Temporary Protected Status" or TPS. But Carlos is on the verge of being deported back to El Salvador. Maria Sacchetti is a reporter with the Boston Globe and she wrote a story about the dilemma Carlos is facing.
Maria Sacchetti: Well, he's one of the flood of recently-arrived minors who have been crossing the southern border in the past few years and that got a lot of attention this past summer when there was a huge surge, but it's been building for a few years. And he's facing deportation. ICE considers recent border-crossers a priority for deportation.
Werman: And ICE? Remind us what ICE is.
Sacchetti: Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Federal immigration officials.
Werman: Right. And how did Carlos get here in the first place?
Sacchetti: So he was smuggled into the United States. He came with a smuggler and a group of other people and he crossed over and then was captured by the Border Patrol.
Werman: So, Maria, as you say in your article, this sets up a bizarre irony in the immigration system. The Obama administration is deporting the children of adults it has allowed to remain in the US. Why is that?
Sacchetti: This is a result of conflicting immigration policies where the Obama administration has given some countries Temporary Protected Status. And it's not just the Obama administration. The Bush administration did it and they've been able to do this since 1990. And they have said to these folks that , because of a disaster in their homelands, it's too dangerous to go back. So the parents get work permits, they get driver's licenses, they get Social Security Numbers, and they're allowed to stay and that status is renewed. But Carlos arrived too late for that, and so because he's a recent border-crosser, he's a priority for deportation. The reason I even found out about this is I went to immigration court after the flood this summer and I wanted to see the little kids, [??] taking pictures of, and instead I noticed the vast majority were teenagers - sixteen, seventeen. And just doing the math, we know El Salvador and Honduras have Temporary Protected Status, they've had it for years, and a lot of these kids . . .
Werman: And what was the disaster that allowed them to get this TPS?
Sacchetti: So in El Salvador there were back-to-back earthquakes that left many people dead and for Honduras it was Hurricane Mitch. And a lot of people think that Temporary Protected Status should not be removed, it's supposed to be temporary and it goes on indefinitely. But the Obama administration renewed it most recently last year saying it was too dangerous for the parents to go back. But now they're preparing the deport this child and probably lots of other children.
Werman: Which is weird because it's almost like TPS becomes the dream act for the parents and the kids then get sent back. What is the kind of logic here, according to the US government when it comes to letting the parents live here legally, but not their son, Carlos?
Sacchetti: So they won't say and they won't even explain to the people involved why they're rejecting their requests to stay. And that I think is very interesting. I mean the Obama administration has gotten a lot of attention for using what they call prosecutorial discretions, setting aside cases that are not a priority, and in Boston and in Washington the immigration officials denying his case have offered no explanation.
Werman: So what are Carlos's options right now?
Sacchetti: Well, he feels that he doesn't have very many good options. He has a deportation hearing in April and he has no basis in the law to stay and his only chance was for immigration officials to set aside his case and they have said repeatedly since 2011 that they would take minors into account, but they haven't done that in his case. He came when he was fifteen. This month he turns eighteen.
Werman: How about his parents? I mean Carlos must obviously want to stay with his parents, but how do his parents feel? I mean mother, father, losing your children back to El Salvador?
Sacchetti: Well, they had mixed feelings about him coming. It's so dangerous to cross, especially in the summer. That's when a lot of people die and it's very hard for kids' bodies to regulate heat. This summer we were down watching crews exhume bodies of immigrants who were buried without taking their DNA. So sometimes people just disappear, so no parent wants that to happen. But Carlos said, "Look, this is getting worse for me. I'm getting older. I'm bigger." and he was afraid to go out and he wanted to be with his family. So it was really his choice. But they're so happy to have him with them, but now there's this new struggle and this new fear that he's going to be sent right back.
Werman: Maria Sacchetti, a reporter with the Boston Globe. She reported Carlos's story for the paper yesterday. Maria, thanks for coming in.
Sacchetti: Thanks for having me.