Emma and Elvia: An undocumented mother’s dedication to her daughter with disabilities

Elvia Urias is an undocumented immigrant who cares for her daughter, Emma, who has severe mental disabilities. Emma, 22, is protected from deportation by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) but now has aged out of school. She spends most of her time alone at home while her mother works evenings to provide for the two of them.

Emma Urias Franco sits on her bed in her home in Phoenix, Arizona, on April 5, 2017. Emma was born in Mexico, and at 8 days old, was diagnosed with meningitis, which quickly turned into a case of hydrocephalus, a condition where there is an excess buildup of fluid in the brain, causing an enlarged head as well as brain damage. After spending the majority of her first 9 months in the hospital with no improvements, her parents decided to move the family to the United States in hope of having access to better medical care. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

Now 22, Emma is severely mentally-impaired and her mother Elvia Urias, a widow, cares for her full time while working nights as a cleaning lady. Her husband died in a car accident in 1997, and Elvia had been raising Emma and her brother Omar alone, until Omar was deported in 2005. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

Legally protected as a DACA student, Emma attended school until she was 21 and graduated with her high school diploma. Today, Emma spends most of her days at home, in a house they share with another single mother. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

Elvia works full-time to be able to support Emma and the expensive medication she requires to prevent seizures. When she leaves, she makes sure to lock the doors, as Emma will often be home alone. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

While her mother is at work, Emma stays at home in her hospital bed with the guard rails up, in order to prevent her from falling out. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

Elvia and Emma wait in the office of Christian Clinic in Phoenix after winning a lottery pick for a free appointment with a doctor who may be available if someone cancels an appointment. Elvia hopes the clinic will help her find a more affordable alternative to Emma’s expensive seizure medication. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

After working the night before, Elvia lies on her bed exhausted. After 20 years of physically demanding cleaning work and lifting Emma to and from her bed to a wheelchair or into a car, Elvia has her own health problems. Her knees and back are strained and climbing stairs and lifting heavy objects are painful and difficult tasks. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)

Elvia has not been able to return to Mexico since the family left over 20 years ago. She has only seen her grandchildren through video calls. Omar pleads with his mother to return to Mexico and bring Emma to live with him. But Elvia worries she will be a burden on her son, and won’t find work to support herself and contribute to Emma’s medical care or have access to the same services for her daughter. (Photo by Johanna Huckeba/Cronkite News)