Esperanza Pacheco must make that choice by Sept. 20, when she is scheduled to be deported from Painesville, a Cleveland suburb, to Mexico, which she left in 1995. She hasn't decided whether to take her four U.S.-born daughters back to Guanajuato, where drug cartels engage in violent clashes, or leave them behind.
Pacheco's husband, a landscaper, was deported to Mexico last summer for the second time. He was a priority for deportation because he was convicted of a felony in 2006 as a repeat immigration violator.
Pacheco, 40, also has a criminal record. She was convicted in 2002 of child endangering, a misdemeanor. She says she left two of her girls, then 6 and 3, alone in her trailer when she went to apply for a job. Immigration officials granted her a stay of deportation last year, but the deferral is about to expire.
She has filed a petition to stay, but she knows immigration agents may come for her. So she has hung a black purse with copies of important documents and family photographs — her deportation bag — on the wall next to her bed.
"Everything I care about most is in here," she said, pointing to the nylon satchel. "When they come, I don't want to be running around trying to find things."