AFSC’s Immigrant Rights Program in Newark, New Jersey, partnered with national and local organizations to conduct a Congressional briefing and legislative visits in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2014.
Nearly 100 New Jersey children and their families filled two buses from Newark, Union City, and Morristown early in the morning.
In Washington, they shared their stories at a briefing with the title, “Since my Mother Left.” Over 50 people attended to learn the children’s stories of family separation firsthand.
Moderating the briefing was a member of AFSC’s Detention Project whose own mother was deported 12 years ago. She told her story in front of the members of Congress in 2010.
Three children and one parent shared their painful stories caused by broken immigration policy.
Thirteen-year-old Jamil followed his parents after they were deported to Honduras. After three years of constant gang violence incidents including knife pointing at his stomach and a pistol held to his father’s head, Jamil, a U.S. citizen, was sent back to the U.S. under his cousin’s guardianship. Jamil said, “I wish the Congress and President can stand up for families and not detain anyone because kids need to grow up with their parents and siblings.”
A senate staffer described the briefing as the best they have ever attended.
After the briefing and pizza lunch, 100 participants and a dozen D.C.-based advocates were dispatched to visit their members of Congress. They asked them to eliminate the “detention bed quota” currently in the appropriations bill.
In total, the group conducted 17 visits, including a meeting with the White House’s Public Engagement office. Participants also dropped off legislative packets at the Congressional offices that were not able to meet that day.
Many participants expressed hope and excitement about the day and the opportunity to talk to federal legislators. One person said, “I am so happy that I came. I feel empowered and hopeful.”