U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers detained a Grover Beach mother of three on Jan. 3 and deported her to Tijuana, Mexico, days later. Neofita Silva's eldest daughter Susan Bernal, a 23-year-old medical assistant living in San Diego, must now step up and take care of her two siblings.
- Photo Courtesy Of Susan Bernal
- PICKING UP THE PIECES Susan Bernal (pictured far left) is moving back to Grover Beach to care for her siblings after her mother, Neofita Silva (second from left), was deported earlier this month.
Silva battled ICE for 12 years to stay in the United States with her family, renewing a temporary work permit over and over again. Last December, she received notice that she had exhausted all of her legal avenues and would be deported.
Silva was taken to the Adelanto Processing Center in Victorville on Jan. 4 and ICE left her in Tijuana on Jan. 5.
"No one was there when I got there. My family didn't know I was going to be taken across the border and there was no one there to help me," Silva told New Times in Spanish over the phone.
During the detaining process, Silva was allowed to make two phone calls: one to her lawyers and the other to her daughter Bernal.
"She tried to give me a call, but when I answered the operator said I needed to put in my credit card information to pay for the call," Bernal said. "I didn't even have enough time to put in my credit card number before the call disconnected."
The process happened so quickly that Bernal and her siblings weren't able to get in touch with their mother or know where she would be next.
"We tried calling, but the person on the other line said they couldn't give us any information and would only speak to our lawyer," Bernal said.
Bernal and her lawyer filed an emergency stay for her mother but the effort failed.
"Jan. 5, I met her at the airport in Tijuana to say my goodbyes and put her on a plane back to Acapulco, Mexico," she said.
Bernal filed an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative—the form is the first step in helping a relative immigrate to the United States. Her application must be approved before any action to bring her mother back can take place, and once it's approved, the process takes about a year.
For now, Bernal is transitioning to move back to Grover Beach from San Diego. She's hoping to find a full-time position as a medical assistant on the Central Coast as well as a part-time position on the weekends to continue to pay the mortgage on their homes.
"It really helps that I have a lot of support from the community," she said. "I have to stay strong for my siblings, and I'm just doing my best to keep my head above water."
Bernal will be caring for her 16-year-old sister in high school and her 18-year-old brother in college.
"If I could go down there and keep everything afloat I think that would be really good for us," Bernal said.
Kyle Berlin, a high school friend of the 18-year-old, started a GoFundMe page for the family, which has raised more than $4,000 so far. While there were many people who vocally support the family, Berlin wanted to find a way to tangibly help the family's current financial situation.
"Its devastating to personally know people that are affected. Immigration isn't an abstract thing. People we all know in our community that are kind, loving, and contributing individuals are so adversely affected by this cruel process," Berlin said. "It's disheartening." Δ