The struggle of undocumented single, Latina mothers in the United States (2023)

“Look at my hands,” that’s what Elizabeth, a pseudonym, kept saying throughout our conversation. As she likes to say, she has already lived many lives in just one, and her hands’ scars tell her stories.

As an immigrant from Ecuador, she came to the United States more than 20 years ago looking for better life conditions — and this wasn’t even Elizabeth’s first time reinventing herself.

She left her parents' house in the countryside of Ecuador when she was only 12 years old; pursuing a new life in the big city, she was alone. Elizabethwas a child having to face real challenges such as famine, homelessness and prejudice with no support.

After a few years andwith two children and a husband, she decided to once again seek new opportunities. The whole family went to Mexico and spent a year there, where Elizabeth worked nonstop to get the money to cross the border.

In 2001, the family made it to Ohio, but there was no American dream waiting for Elizabeth there either.

The father of her now four children became her worst nightmare. Not only beating her every single day and abusing her emotionally, physically and psychologically, he would also harm and neglect the children. Hesitant to go to the police as she was afraid to be deported and separated from her children, she stayed with him until she couldn’t anymore.

“I suffered everything a woman could possibly suffer,” she said to Al Día News. “I was afraid, alone and didn't even speak English.”

Philadelphia was the city that 15 years ago she was able to escape to and find resources for help. As a undocumented single mother in a completely new environment, Elizabethhad to go against all the odds to be able to raise her children. In the city of brotherly love, she was contradictorily supported by the Sisters of Saint Joseph — who have helped her with immigration and personal issues.

Since she escaped, neither she or her children have seen or heard from her husband again.

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There is no doubt that facing all the problems on your own is more difficult than with a support system. Although Elizabethdidn’t have any family in the U.S., she found the help she needed at the Sisters of Saint Joseph Welcome Center — which also offers support for many other immigrants in the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas.

Created 20 years ago, the welcome center emerged in the Kensington neighborhood to meet the needs of the growing immigrant community in the area. The Sisters of Saint Joseph are traditionally educators who, with strength and commitment, transformed a former funeral home and doctor’s offices into a homey place people can come for help.

Considering Philadelphia's long history of being a city of immigrants, the welcome center’s mission is to offer opportunities to immigrants and others to improve the quality of their lives through access to education, support services, and programs leading to self-sufficiency. The welcome center is totally funded through the Sisters of Saint Joseph, but they also receive grants and donations.

In the area of education, they offer English classes and citizenship preparation — and many of the classes are taught by volunteers. Yoga, crochet and art workshops are also offered so women can come together. It is a place for hospitality and community, said a staff member.

Working as a resource center and committed to supporting the community, whenever they are capable of helping their regulars, they do so — with food, rent, utilities and more. There is also someone in the staff who is certified through the Department of Justice that helps with immigration issues. Even if they can't help someone at the welcome center, the staff always makes sure to offer resources to other organizations in the city.

For their work with women, they have partnered with other organizations in the city to promote conversations about abuse, as many women don’t even realize they are in abusive relationships. Because it is a difficult topic that people don’t often talk about, having those information sessions help to bring awareness.

Playing a special role in Elizabeth and her family’s lives, the sisters of Saint Joseph helped her go through some hard times when her youngest daughter Sylvia, a pseudonym — who struggles with severe depression and suicide attempts — had to be hospitalized in a mental institution.

Besides all the past trauma and having to work two jobs to provide for her family, one of Elizabeth’s main concerns is that she has no documentation in the U.S. She is constantly afraid the police are going to knock at her door and deport her. Elizabethworries about how her children are going to react with separation — especially her daughter Sylvia. Not only Elizabeth, but her two older children who were born in Ecuador have no documents, but have been living in the U.S. for basically their entire lives.

Elizabeth isn’t an isolated case of an Ecuadorian trying to find better conditions in the U.S. According to Pew Research Center, Ecuadorians were the 10th-largest population of Hispanic origin living in the U.S., in 2017; accounting for 1% of the U.S. Hispanic population. Since 2000, the Ecuadorian-origin population has increased 174% in the country.

Since she left Ecuador, Elizabethhasn’t seen her parents again. In the meantime, her father died but her mom still lives in the house Elizabeth left when she was only 12. Her dream is to be able to hug her mother once again, but for this to happen she needs to become legal in the U.S. first.


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Al Día News talked with Seth Lupton, an immigration attorney at Lupton Law LLC, who explained what are some of the legal alternatives available for Elizabethand all other undocumented single mothers and their children.

Located in the Pennsylvania area, Lupton has experience dealing with single immigrant mothers. He said that the standard lawyer response to immigration cases is: it depends. It depends how each person entered the U.S., how many years they have been living in the country, if they have criminal records and more; however, a few options largely apply in most single mother cases. See below some situations and its processes that may allow you to be eligible for a visa:

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  • If you can prove your child would suffer extreme hardship if you get deported. It doesn’t matter if the child was or not born in the U.S., but the mother needs to be living here for at least 10 years. For this process, the mother needs to go in front of a judge, through the court system first, and prove the child’s circumstances. Several medical conditions are much easier to prove, for example, according to Lupton.If the mother wins the case, she gets a work permit and is technically allowed to stay in the U.S. lawfully, while the visa is processed. Due to a gap in the amount of those visas that can be given out per year, the whole process can take years.
  • If your child was born in the U.S. and is over 21. If the mother entered the country with a visa and ended up over staying, but had a child who is now over 21; this child can directly apply for the mother.
  • If you are under 18 in Pennsylvania and you are here with a single parent. Besides Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), children can apply for a special immigration juvenile status. Basically, it needs to be proved that a child is abandoned, abused or neglected by their other parent. Just one of these three is enough and abandonment can also mean that one of the parents doesn’t have the economic capacity to take care of that child, Lupton said.Besides filing paperwork, the process involves going to family court, instead of immigration court. Once the person is approved for the status, they are on their way to get a green card. It is important to highlight that custody changes between states. In New Jersey, for example, people can be under 21.
  • If you were either emotionally, physically, or psychologically abused by your U.S. citizen partner. Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), women who their partners showed a pattern practice of abuse over time are eligible for immigration relief in the U.S. — even if they came unlawfully or have a criminal record. Once they have had that for a while, they are eligible for residency and later citizenship.
  • If you were a victim of a domestic violence crime. It doesn't matter if the couple is technically married or not, women (and, if they have, their children) are eligible for a U visa — a specific type of visa for people who were victims of crimes. Although just certain crimes qualify, domestic violence is for sure one of them. It doesn't matter who committed it (boyfriend, husband, etc) nor where the person is from (a citizen or not); what matters is that women report to the police and be cooperative.The process can take up to eight years, but while it happens, applicants are allowed to stay in the U.S. Once the visa is approved, people have it for four years; and after three years, they can apply for a green card. Lupton highlights that if a person has a criminal record or multiple entries to the U.S., it doesn't matter in order to qualify for an U visa. It is important to also mention that if the opposite happens, and the children are the ones who suffered the abuse, the parent is also eligible for the visa.

Lupton explainedthat many domestic violence crimes aren’t reported by Latina immigrants because of cultural concepts. Often, women coming from countries, especially from Central America, don’t understand the seriousness of the situations they face with their abusive partners. Once they get to the U.S., they are able to find people and resources that help them understand that how they have been living isn’t right. On top of that, women are hesitant to report because the abusers use the women's fear of being deported to prevent them from going to the police.

At Lupton Law LLC, consultations aren’t charged, as Lupton explains attorneys have to do a better job in spreading the word about what options are available to immigrants, specially to single mothers. His office also does free informational sessions in churches and community groups, in order to help immigrants be aware of resources they can reach out to.

“Please do not think that you do not have access to services because you are not a citizen,” Lupton said. “You might not have the same access that a citizen has, but you do have resources.”

Just like Elizabeth, many single mothers have been struggling to provide for their families on their own. According to a data provided by National KIDS ACCOUNT, 34% of children were in single-parent families, in 2019. Among the Latino community, this number rose to 42%.

Adding to the challenges, Latina immigrants in the labor force earn less than any other demographic group.

Even after many lives, Elizabethstill struggles to provide for her family. She works nonstop to try to compensate for being a single parent provider, but new difficulties inside her house have added to the pile. Because her youngest daughter Sylvia was suffering bullying in public school, Elizabeth had to transfer her to a safer private school — which was only possible due to the help of scholarships.

The problem is she still needs money to pay for the rest of tuition, and changing schools again doesn’t seem like a good alternative for Sylvia. Although adapted to the new environment, Elizabeth is afraid how a drastic change may affect Sylvia due to her mental problems. She still has one year left in middle school and the entire high school to go through, so Elizabeth needs all the help possible.

She is now desperately trying to find alternatives for her daughter to keep studying — somethingshe loves to do. Elizabethsays Sylvia’s dream is to one day be successful and able to buy her mother a house.

“What has been keeping me going are my children,” said Elizabeth.

Since she left her home when she was 12, Elizabeth has been trying to have a better life. Many years and a few children later, her dream now is for them to have access to education and a safe life in the United States, without constant fear. If you want to help Elizabeth please reach out to [emailprotected].

If you are experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233. Women Against Abuse and Office of Domestic Violence Strategies are additional resources in Philadelphia.

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What race has the highest rate of single mothers? ›

When it comes to single parent statistics by race, US census data shows that the predominant ethnicity of single parent mothers and fathers is white non-Hispanic. This is followed by African American single mothers then Hispanic single mothers. The ethnicity with the least number of single parents are Asians.

Which ethnic group has the highest percentage of single parent households? ›

Black and American Indian or Alaska Native kids are most likely to live in a single-parent families (64% of Black children and 49% of American Indian or Alaska Native children fit this demographic).

What are the statistics of black single mothers? ›

In 2011, it was reported that 72% of black babies were born to unmarried mothers. As of 2015, at 77.3 percent, black Americans have the highest rate of non-marital births among native Americans.

What are 3 problems single parents face? ›

Without a partner to share the load, it can seem even harder. The most common problems are about money, time and child-rearing concerns; there's never enough of the first two and too much of the third. But with a good support system, you can overcome many of these problems and build a stronger, happier family.

How are single mothers discriminated against? ›

Some examples of discrimination single mothers may face include: Being fired because they are pregnant or will take maternity leave. Not being flexible with the work schedules of single parents, while giving flexible schedules to employees without children. Not being promoted simply because they have children.

What race has the most fatherless babies? ›

Living with no parent was most common for Black children (8%); followed by Hispanic (4%); White, non-Hispanic (3%); and Asian children (1%).

What race has the most fatherless children? ›

57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent their biological fathers.

What percent of Hispanic families are single parent? ›

Our new analysis of the American Community Survey finds that, in 2019, the majority (56%) of Latino childrena lived with two married parents. The remainder lived in families with a single parent (29%), with unmarried cohabiting parents (11%), or with no parents (4%).

What are the four types of single parents? ›

Types of Single-Parent Families

Divorced parents. Widowed parents. Non-married parents who split up.

What percentage of single mothers get married? ›

Single Mom Demographics

Currently, about half of women who are single mothers were never married at all, and of the other half: 17% are separated. 4% are widowed. 29% are divorced.

What percent of single mothers are white? ›

Demographic # Around half (51.4%) of single mothers have never married, almost a third (29.3%) are divorced. About two thirds are White, one third Black.

What is the poverty rate for Black single mothers? ›

Single Mother Poverty: Most Important Statistics

The percentage of Black families with a single mother living below the poverty level decreased from 48.1% in 1990 to 29.3% in 2021. 81% of solo parents are mothers, 19% are fathers.

What percentage of Black children are raised by single mothers? ›

Between 1970 and 2022, the proportion of children living with their mothers in single-parent households increased from 7.8% to 16.7% for white youth and from 29.5% to 45.6% for Black youth.

What is the rate of single motherhood by race? ›

Among solo parents, 42% are white and 28% are black, compared with 55% of cohabiting parents who are white and 13% who are black. These gaps are driven largely by racial differences among the large share of solo parents who are mothers. Solo moms are more than twice as likely to be black as cohabiting moms (30% vs.

What do single mothers need most? ›

Those basic needs like safety, food, and shelter are the ones we focus on because we don't have a choice. And even if paying the bills is still a challenge after quite some time, this doesn't mean that as a single mom you should continue to keep your eyes on just surviving. It's time to think about thriving.

What is single mom stress syndrome? ›

If parents aren't able to cope with the stress caused by single parenting, they run the risk of experiencing burnout. This is a common condition among single parents that can often lead to increased anxiety, depression, and physical health issues.

What is the biggest concern for single parents? ›

Stressors faced by single parent families
  • Visitation and custody problems.
  • The effects of continuing conflict between the parents.
  • Less opportunity for parents and children to spend time together.
  • Effects of the breakup on children's school performance and peer relations.
  • Disruptions of extended family relationships.
Oct 31, 2019

Is being a single mother traumatic? ›

History of Abuse

Although they've made the brave choice to leave, the psychological trauma lingers and can be easily triggered. Without support or resources, too many single moms carry a heavy burden of pain, which is often expressed in PTSD, depression and other mental health challenges.

Why are single mothers disadvantage? ›

‌If you're a single parent, you may be less involved in your children's studies and school activities. Children's performance at school can be affected if you don't monitor their activities. Your child may also develop behavioral problems, be less motivated, and get lower test scores.

What are the negative stereotypes of single parents? ›

Negative stereotypes

I am a lesser person because I do not have a partner. When things go wrong, it is automatically my fault because I am a single parent. There is no respect for a single parent. We are seen as single by choice, just to get benefits, so we can be lazy and not have to go out to work.”

What dad has the most biological kids? ›

67 of the 69 children were said to have survived infancy. Allegedly Vassilyev also had six sets of twins and two sets of triplets with a second wife, for another 18 children in eight births; he fathered a total of 87 children. The claim is disputed as records at this time were not well kept.

Which race produces the most babies? ›

Retrieved June 19, 2023, from In the United States, the highest fertility rates (per 1,000 women ages 15-44) during 2018-2020 (average) were to Hispanic women (64.8), followed by blacks (62.6), American Indian/Alaska Natives (60.8), Asian/Pacific Islanders (55.6) and Whites (55.3).

Which country is the most fatherless? ›

Indonesia Peringkat 3 Fatherless Country di Dunia, Mempertanyakan Keberadaan 'Ayah' dalam Kehidupan Anak. Indonesia disebut menjadi negara fatherless ketiga di dunia. Hal tersebut berarti banyak anak Indonesia yang kekurangan sosok 'ayah' dalam hidupnya.

What percentage of men never father a child? ›

Among men aged 15–49 in 2015–2019, 55.2% had not fathered a biological child, 14.8% had fathered one biological child, 17.4% had fathered two children, 8.2% had fathered three children, and 4.4% had fathered four or more children.

What is absent father syndrome? ›

March 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) Father absence occurs when parents separate and the father no longer lives with his children. Parental separation has been proven to affect a child's development and behavior.

What ethnicity is most likely to be living with both parents? ›

Asian children are the most likely to be living with both parents—fully 84% are, including 71% who are living with parents who are both in their first marriage.

What is the average size of a Hispanic family in the US? ›

Hispanic families are larger than the overall US family average. The average Hispanic family is about 3.8 people compared to the US average of 3.2. Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Mexican American families all have an average family size of more than four people.

What percentage of Hispanic babies are born to single mothers? ›

Among immigrants, Hispanics have the highest rate of non-marital births at 48 percent, which means that 48 percent of births to Hispanic immigrants are to a mother who was unmarried at the time of the child's birth.

What is the difference between Hispanic and Latino? ›

Hispanic refers to a person with ancestry from a country whose primary language is Spanish. Latino and its variations refer to a person with origins from anywhere in Latin America (Mexico, South and Central America) and the Caribbean.

Which gender has more single parents? ›

Sex is another variable associated with living arrangements, both within religious groups and across them. Women are more likely than men to be single parents, for example, and also more likely to live alone in later years.

What is the fastest growing group of single mothers? ›

Single motherhood rate by race

“Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, motherhood without marriage has settled deeply into middle America. The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree.

Is it harder being a single parent? ›

Becoming a single parent can be a very overwhelming and stressful time in your life as you face having to raise your children on your own without the support from your partner. Most of us don't plan to bring up children on our own but unfortunately circumstances can change in family life and the inevitable can happen.

What is the best state for single mothers? ›

California is the best state for raising a family as a single parent. The state finishes with the highest workplace protection score, offering eight weeks of paid family leave a year and up to 40 hours a year of unpaid time to attend school activities.

Which state has the most single mothers? ›

Percent of Babies Born to Unmarried Mothers by State
LocationPercent of Births to Unmarried Women
46 more rows

Do single moms find love again? ›

Loving Again, as a Single Parent. Finding love isn't easy as a single parent, but it's possible. Learning about dating when you have kids can help you enjoy the experience. Dating for single parents might sound intimidating, but a time can come when you think about the idea.

Do child predators target single mothers? ›

Many child molesters take the time to “groom” their victims before actually committing the crime. It is in these situations where single mothers get charmed by the sexual predators. The child molester will not take action right away. They will spend time trying to gain their victim's trust before they commit the crime.

Why are there so many single mothers in America? ›

In the United States, since the 1960s, there has been an increase in the number of children living with a single parent. The jump was caused by an increase in births to unmarried women and by the increasing prevalence of divorces among couples.

What determines the ethnicity of a child? ›

Beginning in 1989, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) changed their standards for determining a child's race. Since that time, a child's race has been determined by the race of the mother as reported on the birth certificate.

What race is the poorest in the United States? ›

The US Census declared that in 2014 14.8% of the general population lived in poverty: As of 2010 about half of those living in poverty are non-Hispanic white (19.6 million). Non-Hispanic white children comprised 57% of all poor rural children.

What percent of Hispanic children live in poor families? ›

Previous analysis showed that poverty rates among Latino children increased by 4.1 percentage points from 2019 to 2020 (from 23.2% to 27.3%). This increase accounted for more than half of the total increase in the number of children living in poverty over the past year.

What is the poverty rate for Hispanic people? ›

In 2021, 15 percent of Hispanic families were living below the poverty level in the United States.

How many Black families have no father? ›

According to Hattery and Smith 25–33% of African-American men are spending time in jail or prison and according to Thomas, Krampe, and Newton 28% of African-American children do not live with any father representative.

How many Black men are single fathers? ›

Black fathers are the most likely to be heads of single father households—29% are. This share drops to 20% among Hispanic fathers and just 14% among white fathers.

How many Black single mothers are there in the US? ›

In 2021, there were about 4.27 million Black families in the United States with a single mother. This is an increase from 1990 levels, when there were about 3.4 million Black families with a single mother.

What is the hardest part of being a single parent? ›

The Five Hardest Parts about Being a Single Mom
  • You Can't Be the Good Cop. When there is only one parent, that parent is the disciplinarian. ...
  • Dealing with the Financial Strain. Raising a child or children on just one income is no easy task. ...
  • No Breaks. ...
  • Being Alone. ...
  • Watching Your Child Experience Loss.
Jun 20, 2012

What stresses single mothers? ›

Research has found that single parents tend to be at a higher risk for experiencing financial hardships, which can have a negative impact on psychological well-being. It increases the risk for isolation, anxiety, and depression.

How is being a single mom hard? ›

It is seriously hard to be a single parent. You have to deal with all of the parental duties while juggling work, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, having relationships with others, and what happens if you get sick? You certainly cannot call in and take the day off from being a parent!

Do single mothers struggle financially? ›

Whether due to death, divorce, or choice, single parents face unique financial challenges. Budgets are often more stressed, child care can be a struggle, and saving for the future might feel impossible at times. These challenges come in a broad range of areas: Income.

What is single parent syndrome? ›

OBSESSIVE SINGLE PARENTING SYNDROME IS WHEN: • When you think that there is no one who can parent your children better than yourself including your own mother.

What is depleted mother syndrome? ›

What is Depleted Mother Syndrome (DMS)? In a nutshell, Depleted Mother Syndrome (DMS) occurs when demands on the mother increase, and her resources decrease. As a result of this imbalance, the mother's emotional sensitivity to both internal, and external triggers becomes heightened.

What are three causes of single parenting? ›

A person can become a single or sole parent for many different reasons. You may have chosen to start a family on your own, you may be separated or divorced, or the other parent may have died.

What are five causes of single parenting? ›

There are many causes of single parenthood, such as:
  • Infidelity.
  • Divorce.
  • Abandonment.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Death.
  • Young pregnancy.
Jan 5, 2022

What mental health does a single mom have? ›

For some single moms, stressors can pile up and lead to a mental-health crisis. Some of the women who come to our site struggle with depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

Is it worth dating a single mom? ›

Dating a single parent isn't right for everyone and it isn't something to enter into lightly. No matter how much chemistry you share or how much you both value your relationship, there will be times when the kids interrupt, take precedence over your relationship, and require the devoted attention of their parent.

Why is it so hard for single moms to date? ›

There are plenty of reasons that single mothers can't find a date – age, opportunity, priorities, and standards are all factors. Time goes by, the dating pool dries up, you change, other people change.

Are most single mothers divorced? ›

Around half (51.4%) of single mothers have never married, almost a third (29.3%) are divorced. About two thirds are White, one third Black.

How much should a single mom make a month? ›

How much does a Single Parent make? As of Jun 13, 2023, the average annual pay for a Single Parent in the United States is $56,758 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $27.29 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,091/week or $4,729/month.


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