Idalia and Arnold came to this country nearly two decades ago, from Honduras. They settled in a small city in New England and found the working-class jobs of the type common to undocumented Central Americans: janitorial, hotel housekeeping and construction. They and their three children were a loving, close-knit family. The kids were active in school—in the band, on the football team, and in R.O.T.C. Idalia lectured them to work hard in school and set goals, and to spend less time playing video games. When one son got a hoverboard, he taught his mom to ride it, and she would take it to work to zoom around the hotel’s halls. But when Idalia was arrested for a traffic violation and deported to Honduras, things started to come apart. Idalia tries to stay present in her children’s lives, talking to them over video calls while they eat dinner or loaf around the house. But increasingly, it’s Andy, the sixteen-year-old middle child, who is playing the roles of mother and father to his whole family. The New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman and Micah Hauser, who have been tracking the fates of deportees, have spent much of the past year with this ordinary family that is facing an extraordinary situation.
The Columbia Journalism School’s Global Migration Project supported the reporting of this story. Eileen Grench assisted in translation.