MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Nora Sandigo is a mother of two, if you don’t count the 817 children for whom she considers herself to be a guardian.
Those 817 children are U.S. citizens, spread out across the country, whose parents are undocumented immigrants living in constant fear of being detained or deported.
So they sign over power of attorney to Sandigo, and she takes the responsibility very seriously.
“It’s hard. It’s their trust, and I hope I can always honor their confidence,” Sandigo told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana in a small room filled with filing cabinets that house information about her the children she’s charged with protecting.
“First it was two. Then two more. Then two more. I couldn’t stop,” Sandigo said.
She keeps each child’s picture in a separate file, along with a copy of their birth certificate and social security card.
They don’t all live with her. In fact, only two of her non-biological children live in her home. Instead, she uses her role as “guardian” to make sure they children are placed with their own relatives or neighbors in the event their parents are sent back to the countries they came from.
In many instances, at least one parent is still in the United States with their child or children, but they sign forms labeled “affidavit” just in case.
The papers are notarized and filed away in the event they’re ever needed.
Sandigo doesn’t just help on paper. She helps in person, too.
On Wednesday, she and a volunteer loaded up her van in the driveway of the home that also serves as an office for her organization “American Fraternity, Inc.”.
She drove for almost an hour, getting lost along the way, to a duplex in Homestead to drop off food and supplies for some of the children she watches over.
Sandigo makes that trip about once a week.
Every other day of the week is filled with similar visits in other parts of town. She throws weekly parties for the children and their families at her home.
Often times, her duties include shuttling kids to and from doctor’s appointments, court hearings, and school events.
Sandigo was in Washington, D.C. last week, where she spoke with multiple lawmakers regarding immigration reform.
Among them was Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL), who calls Sandigo “her own little social welfare agency”.
“She’s a force of nature. A force to be reckoned with and she’s doing it all with the best intentions,” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said.
While Sandigo considers herself a guardian, the legality of her status in these children’s lives isn’t exactly clear.
Immigration Attorney Nera Shefer is unsure if a judge would deem Sandigo fit to care for so many kids.
“If we had people like her all through the United States, we’d be better off, definitely,” Shefer said. “But my concern is just to make sure we do things right for these kids because they’re the ones who are ultimately going to suffer if things are not given the proper steps.”
Sandigo said she doesn’t accept any money for her services.
So whether she’s a “legal” guardian or not, to many families, she is a guardian angel.
“It’s a blessing. I love doing my job,” Sandigo said. “It’s like working for Jesus.”