Feb 13, 2018, 3:05 PM ET

Twin sisters' future in US uncertain after parents deported

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For the past 17 years, twin sisters Liany and Dani Villacis have called New York their home.

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They arrived with their parents in 2001, at the age of 5, fleeing political persecution and violence in their mother’s home country of Colombia by joining their paternal grandmother, an American citizen who lived in New York. The family entered the United States legally, paid taxes, committed no crimes and renewed their immigration paperwork on time, every time, as they worked toward citizenship.

But in November, at a routine immigration meeting, their father was suddenly detained, immediately incarcerated and within weeks, deported. This month, their mother was deported as well. Liany and Dani Villacis, now 22, remain in the U.S. under DACA protection.

PHOTO: After watching their parents quickly and inexplicably deported, twin sisters Liany and Dani Villacisare worried they could be next.ABC News
After watching their parents quickly and inexplicably deported, twin sisters Liany and Dani Villacisare worried they could be next.

After watching their parents quickly and inexplicably deported, the sisters are worried they could be next.

“They’ve done everything right,” Liany Villacis told ABC News. “I just did not understand it. I could not, like, put the pieces together and say my parents were getting deported.”

When the family applied for political asylum after they first arrived in the U.S., they were denied. The sisters blame their first lawyer, who they said failed to mention the political threats they faced in Colombia, arguing instead that their social class made them a target. However, the family was allowed to remain in the U.S. after they were granted and then continued to annually renew a “stay of removal” -- a temporary postponement that prevents the Department of Homeland Security from deporting an immigrant.

PHOTO: Demonstrators protest the government shutdown and the lack of a deal on DACA outside of Federal Plaza on Jan. 22, 2018, in New York.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Demonstrators protest the government shutdown and the lack of a deal on DACA outside of Federal Plaza on Jan. 22, 2018, in New York.

Every year, the girls would accompany their parents on what became a routine check-in at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in New York, where their paperwork would be renewed for another year.

But last year’s appointment was different.

On Nov. 15, Liany and Dani Villacis’ father was immediately detained and taken into custody, slated for deportation. The sisters say they were not allowed to hug him goodbye.

“I was like, ‘This is not happening,’ you know? My dad ended up walking in, you know, like dressed up professionally because he was going to go to work right after,” said Liany Villacis. “I was like, ‘No way that they’re doing it and they’re doing it this way.’”

“We’d always been told, you know, the priority for deportation are people who have criminal records. That, you know, people who have paid their taxes, done everything well, you know, you’re OK. Like, you’re not our priority,” said Dani Villacis. “I don’t know if maybe it is naïve to think that, you know, we’re doing everything right, things are going to work out.”

PHOTO: DACA recipients and their supporters turn their back on an image showing President Trump during a State of the Union party at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights and the California Dream Network offices in Los Angeles, Jan. 30, 2018.Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
DACA recipients and their supporters turn their back on an image showing President Trump during a State of the Union party at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights and the California Dream Network offices in Los Angeles, Jan. 30, 2018.

Their mother was granted a few extra weeks, for health reasons, before she would be deported. The sisters, who still live in the home in which they were raised, are now responsible for the house, the bills and caring for their elderly grandmother, something their father did primarily.

Both Liany and Dani Villacis recently started new jobs.

With the Trump administration’s deadline to end the DACA program looming, both are now forced to reckon with the possibility of leaving the only home they’ve ever really known.

“The new administration right now, they’re saying, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re deporting this segment of groups. And at the same time we want to bring people that are contributing to this country,’” said Liany Villacis. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘There’s so many people that are already here. That are already here! That have spent most of their lives here, working hard, to be able to find relief, become permanent citizens. That are contributing to the community.’”

“You’ve invested in this country so much, you love this country,” said Dani Villacis. “So why can’t the country continue to invest in us?”

Check out the full conversation on this week’s episode of "Uncomfortable."

Download and subscribe to the "Uncomfortable" podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher and ABC News podcasts.

The Villacis sisters were interviewed as part of a series called "Uncomfortable," hosted by Amna Nawaz, that offers in-depth honest conversations with influential figures about issues dividing America.

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  • HARDTALK

    17 killed in Florida.... Count how many people have been killed in 2018 alone...America have a serious problem. It's called 'HATE." It got worse since Donald Trump took over... His budget is a military one. His goal...To disable the American safety net... I got out of the USA and moved to more civilized country. We are watching you and feeling sad and worried about what taking care over there. Somebody answered
    "GOOD RIDDANCE...AND DON'T COME BACK." I can only reply....THANK YOU... AND I HAVE NOT INTENTION to ever see my land. Way too many stupid idiots for my taste.... From the White House, all the way to MSM... Within seven days....Another carnage... Probably ne Texas..... This comment will be deleted....Freedom of speech? Really?

  • pksk531

    "The family entered the United States legally, paid taxes, committed no crimes and renewed their immigration paperwork on time, every time, as they worked toward citizenship."
    So they followed the rules, did everything they were supposed to, entered and remained legal and STILL got deported. THESE are the bad hombres Trump said he was going to deport? I am waiting for some of those to go, because so far it looks like ICE is going after the easiest targets - the ones who comply with the requirements to stay.

  • alphafemale

    This country was built and founded by immigrants, poor people and slaves. This is the nation we are now becoming now..This is actually sad.

  • ruelph

    This is what happens when a despicable human being (Trump) is elected president.

  • Omegacron

    Their parents were deported for not teaching them how to speak without words such as "like" and "y'know" in every other sentence.

  • Impetus

    Where did all these hateful idiots come from anyway?

  • flnycus

    For all the people who think that DACA kids and adults (now grown up) brought here as kids (yes some from Europe and Ireland too, they arent all brown and black) should be sent to countries they dont know.
    Its the same as charging a baby who was in the back seat of a car during a bank robbery with the robbery and aiding and abating and put them in jail for a few decades. Now if you dont care about that then 1. you have no empathy. 2. you dont believe in the American ideals of liberty and justice for all and 3. You are a fascist. which explains alot.

  • flnycus

    Its sad that the system has come to this. Sad for the family.
    But ive always wondered how do people get here illegally then find work and get drivign licenses? Being from europe i find it strange. The sad truth is, because the political class allowed this to go on for so many years using these people a cheap labor in the US economy and ignoring it, now its hurting them, their families and their poor kids. On a human level its so sad, we have to admit, even if we dotn agree on immigration and how it should be handled, that as a human, morally, its tough to watch kids brought here as babies etc being detained, living in fear and families split up and even people being sent to countries they dont know or even speak the language... if we cant agree on that then there is a total breakdown in empathy in America and its not the America i love.