Orfilia Reyes and 15-year-old US citizen son Fredi comfort each other at the vigilPhoto: AFSC / Briana Miller
Reflection on Vigil for Orfilia Reyes
By Lori Fernald Khamala, Immigrant Rights Program Director
May 15, 2012--Greensboro-- My favorite moment of last night was sitting down in the darkened church, holding a candle, closing my eyes and listening to the most beautiful music I might have ever heard. It was undoubtedly a spiritual experience. Orfilia Reyes and her two sons, Fredd and Fredi, played and sang together like they do every week at church. But this time was different. This time, they were playing to keep their family together.
Around 120 people gathered at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro, NC on Tuesday evening, May 15 to support the Reyes family as they struggle to keep Orfilia Reyes here in the country. She arrived in the US more than 20 years ago, seeking political asylum after two brothers were assassinated in Guatemala. Because of erroneous advice from a past attorney, a missed deadline, and a refusal by immigration authorities to re-open her case, she is now set to be deported by June 7.
We in the Greensboro AFSC office usually focus more on community education, policy issues, “the big picture.” But in this case, we have had the great privilege of working extensively with the Reyes family. We have accompanied the family on visits to congressional representatives and TV interviews. Working with the family, we led the coordination of last night’s vigil, program, media outreach, publicity and bringing along a number of other partners, as well as action items like petitions, phone calls and postcards.
Spending time with the Reyes family has given me an intimate view into how our broken immigration system impacts individuals on a deeply personal level. This family, especially 15-year-old US citizen Fredi, is absolutely terrified to the core at the prospect of Fredi’s separation from his mother, if he remains behind in the US if his mother is deported. Yet they are equally terrified of the prospect of Freid’s loss of his educational opportunities and his community, if he accompanies his mother to Guatemala, a country not his own.
Attendees of the vigil were deeply moved. Many were also deeply angered that our government is spending time and taxpayer dollars on trying deport a woman who has given so much to our local community, a woman who doesn’t even have a traffic ticket on her record. During the vigil, participants took time to sign postcards and petitions, and make phone calls to immigration authorities asking them to halt Orfilia’s deportation.
This vigil was especially meaningful so close to Mother’s Day, when we think about how important it is for mothers to be with their children. As a mom myself I know what it feels like to be willing to do absolutely anything for your child to have the best life possible. Getting to know this family, not only have I been able to witness the strength, bravery and courage of a mother to take risks for her family, I have also witnessed children who are willing to do anything for their mom. I am honored to stand with this family and I hope you will too.
View the video, Fredi Reyes’ Letter to my country:http://youtu.be/pOEMf3VVgRo
Sign the petition: http://chn.ge/orfilia
Make the call: Ask ICE to please re-open Orfilia’s case. Orfilia Sagastume-Reyes, A#073-189-266.
· ICE’s John Morton: 202-732-3000
· ICE’s Peter Vincent: 202-732-5000
Sample phone script:
“Hello. I am calling to urge ICE to please re-open the case of Orfilia Reyes, A-number 073-189-266 so that she can be granted a green card. She is the mother of a 15 year old US citizen son. She has lived and paid taxes in the US for more than 20 years and has no criminal record. She meets all the criteria for prosecutorial discretion. Please re-open her case.”
**YES Weekly: features family on cover for Mothers Day issue:
**WFMY News 2 video & coverage of family before vigil:
**Front Page Greensboro News & Record article on the vigil:
**Fox 8 interview with family and vigil coverage:
**WFMY News 2 vigil coverage: