How does it feel?
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Bob Dylan

 

Chapter 1

For an instant, we’re all frozen like statues by the sound of the doorbell. I break ranks first, leaping to my feet with a shout. “Raul!”

Before I can race to open the front door, my dad blocks my way. “Wait here, mija. Your brother wouldn’t ring the bell.” He frowns and his eyes dart to my mother, then toward the door.

“But what if he lost his keys? Maybe that’s why he didn’t come home. He lost his keys and couldn’t drive back and maybe his phone is locked in the car so he couldn’t call and—”

Mom reaches out and tugs at my hand, shaking her head. “Sit down, Emma. Papá will take care of this.”

“But—”

“Sit!”

There’s a sadness in her voice that I’m not used to and my stomach gets kind of queasy as I try to imagine what has become of my brother. He left to go to the immigration office just before I headed to school this morning. As soon as my last class ended, Mom texted me to have Raul call her, since he wasn’t returning her messages. He should have been back long before I was, but I came home to an empty house. Both she and Dad came home early from work and made a ton of calls, trying to locate him.

There’s a flurry of movement in the entryway as a bunch of people dressed in dark shirts with ICE in bold, white letters shove past my father into our living room. Voices are shouting commands and men are grabbing my father’s arms, yanking them behind him and handcuffing him. I hear a high-pitched scream and start to cover my ears before realizing it’s coming from me.

“What are you doing?” I cry as a woman wraps an arm around me and tries to lead me into the kitchen. I squirm out of her grasp, but in an instant she’s got me again. I twist my head around as she marches me out of the living room. “Mom!”

Other agents have a hold of my mother’s arms and are handcuffing her as well. She shouts above the din, “No! I’m a citizen! You can’t do this!”

“Mama!”

“Show them the red folder, Emma!” she shouts, but I barely hear her. They must have taken her outside already.

I’m set down at the kitchen table, the female agent holding me firmly in place by my shoulders. “Calm down,” she says. “You’re going to be okay. We’ll have someone here from Child Protective Services in just a few minutes.”

“How am I going to be okay?! They’re taking away my family!” I start sobbing, overwhelmed by this nightmare. First Raul goes missing and now my parents are being arrested? For what? “Dad! Don’t let them do this! Mom!”

I realize the living room has gone silent other than the crackling of a radio. An agent steps into the kitchen and stares at me.

“Everything under control here?” he asks.

“We’re good. Right, Emma?” She eases the pressure on my shoulders and watches me closely.

I nod and the man hands me a handkerchief. After blowing my nose and wiping my eyes, I offer it back to him. “Keep it.”

“Emma, I’m Officer Delgado. You can call me Kim.”

I look up at her without a word. Delgado. I hadn’t taken her for being Hispanic, but maybe it’s her married name.

She sighs and turns to her partner. “Are they on their way?”

“Yeah. Maybe five minutes out.”

“Okay. So here’s the thing, Emma. A social worker will be here shortly and we’ll make sure you have a safe place to stay tonight.”

“Wait! I don’t want to go someplace else. I want to stay here. I don’t need a babysitter. I’m thirteen!”

They both get these idiotic smirks on their faces. “Well, that’s impressive, but you can’t stay here by yourself. It’s the law – you’re still a minor.”

I plant both palms on the kitchen table and force my voice to stop sounding whiny, as Raul calls it when I get upset. “My brother will be back any minute and he’s eighteen so I can stay here with him.”

They exchange glances. The man shakes his head, looking at me with pity in his eyes. “Sorry, kiddo. Your brother isn’t going to be showing up here tonight or any time in the foreseeable future.”

I can feel my lower lip starting to quiver and my eyes fill with tears. “Why are you doing this? What do you think they did? I don’t understand.”

“Your parents, your brother – they’re all illegals.”

I hate that word. Shoplifting is illegal. Running a red light is illegal. People aren’t illegal. “No! Raul is in DACA. He went to renew his paperwork today. And my Mom was born in Arizona. You’re wrong! They belong here.” I choke out the words, my tears refusing to stop.

Officer Kim Delgado places her hand on my shoulder again, this time gently. Her voice softens. “Things have changed. We’re just doing our job – enforcing the law.”

“They’re here,” the other officer says.

“Thank god.”

I’m handed off to a man and woman wearing regular clothes instead of uniforms. I stare at the backs of the ICE agents’ shirts as they retreat, ignoring the social workers’ attempt to converse with me.

Why is this happening? I haven’t done anything wrong.