Ruby Azurdia-Lee: Blended immigrant families face challenges


What are “blended” immigrant families and what special challenges do they face today? That’s the question that TC Daily Planet writer Erin Collins Salinas posed to Ruby Azurdia-Lee, the president of Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES). Lee was born and raised in Guatemala City.

When I heard you speak at an immigration reform forum at Macalester this fall, you talked a lot about the challenges of blended families. Can you give a definition for that term?

Blended immigrant status families…one or more members of the family do not have legal status but others do. By default those born in the U.S. do have it. Sometimes it can be a mother and children born here, so are U.S. citizens, but a father born in Mexico. Sometimes you have the parents and oldest child not having documentation, but the other children have legal status. What if the children want to take a trip out of the country but only the oldest child can’t because without legal status they can’t leave the U.S.? They also can’t get a driver’s license…It leaves the family with a lot of stress.

What part of immigration reform is most important to blended immigrant status families?

People are suffering a lot of persecution and stress. By having their immigration status fixed or updated I think families will be a lot healthier. I say persecution because there have been many raids so people don’t feel free to go many places. They’ve been taken from their homes even in Minnesota and there’s not even time to turn the stove off…Also, as a social service agency some of the cases we see a lot are where the parents are undocumented and don’t have access to services but their children, born in the U.S. are eligible for services…For example the adults who are undocumented don’t have access to county services such as employment services…Immigration reform in that sense will allow for parents who have been here for many years with undocumented status to have a right to access services that would make them better parents. They will be able to improve their health in order to seek employment and improve their parenting skills via county programs. Especially right now with MNSure people without legal status are not eligible. Obamacare is supposed to cover everyone but it does not cover people who have lived here for years. They are unable to obtain preventative care.

Anything else you’d like to add about blended immigrant status families and immigration reform?

The other piece is how people are getting ready for immigration reform- to pay taxes and learn English…At CLUES we have English classes and classes about how to pay taxes and they are always full. Many undocumented immigrants are already paying taxes with an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)…I think a lot of people have the misconception that they don’t want to acculturate but the opposite is true.

Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.