Seventy men, women, and children visited Washington, D.C., seeking justice for families divided by immigration. They described the impact of deportation and detention to an audience of 90 people in a briefing on Capitol Hill and during personal visits to lawmakers’ offices.
The group traveled from New Jersey, with support from AFSC’s Newark Immigrant Rights Program and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The families and children have roots in Albania, Togo, and Ivory Coast, and four of them told their stories during the June 28 briefing. Immigration attorney and policy expert David Leopold discussed the seriously flawed immigration system and recent developments as well.
Florinda, 23, told the gathering that her aunt and uncle are facing deportation. She said, “The President has asked for the undocumented to come out of the shadows, and my aunt and uncle have, but they still have not found a pathway to citizenship. They go to weekly and monthly check-ins and are treated with attitudes of hatred and disrespect from their Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers who do not even glance at the case before them.”
Twelve-year old Milca said, “I found out that my father was arrested. But at first I didn’t know that he was deported until I was about 10 years old. I thought he was in jail all this time. My mother spent her days crying her eyes out. My brother could not talk clearly for a long time, so people couldn’t understand him. I had low self-esteem because everybody in school had his father and I did not. Sometime I wish my dad was here so things would be different. I would have new clothes.”
The delegation also met with staff of their representatives in Congress, and key decision-makers on the Judiciary committees of both the House and the Senate, and the White House. At all of their stops, the families urged the lawmakers to help stop deportations and create fair and humane immigration reform.
AFSC summer intern Yanex Orellana was quite moved by the experience, saying, “Being part of such an amazing experience and being surrounded by people who have been affected greatly by immigration policies, but who are not giving up, is an example of greatness.”