Florida's undocumented immigrants fear mass deportations

But some lawyers say system is too backlogged
Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 18:30:46-05

Florida's undocumented immigrants are feeling the increased threat of deportation following President Trump's executive order on immigration.

Alejandra Mesa has lived her whole life with a secret.

"You feel different than everyone else," she said.

Like many kids, her parents brought her to the United States illegally when she was just two years old. Mesa said she has tried many times to become a United States citizen, but after a series of missteps in the immigration process, she remains undocumented.

"But now, with the executive orders being passed down, it is a little concerning," she said.

Under President Trump's executive order any one in the country illegally is considered a priority for deportation, making her and others fearful they'll be stopped by local law enforcement.

She says in the past, law enforcement officers may not have cared as much if she was considered undocumented. But now, she said she fears the worst.

"What could happen?" she asked. "Could this person want to put me in jail?"

However, Arturo Rios, an adjunct professor at Stetson Law School in Pinellas County said mass deportations under the new order are simply not feasible, even with the hiring of more ICE officers.

"It’s completely impossible for the current infrastructure of the immigration court to be able to handle an influx of millions of new cases in deportation matters," Rios said.

However, some immigration attorneys say anyone who is undocumented now should have some sort of legal help on standby in case they are picked up by law enforcement or ICE.

“I know you established a life in the United States," said Ahmad Yakzan, attorney with the American Dream Law Office in St. Petersburg. "You need to keep that life safe.”

For now, Alejandra is hoping she will be able to remain in America, where her kids live and are U.S. citizens.

“There’s a lot of people like me that didn’t have a choice," she said.

She says the United States is the only home she's ever known.