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Mar-19-2014 10:19printcomments

Northwest Families Attempt to Reunite across the United States and Mexico Border

Like Hitler's Germany in the 1930's, Immigration officials break up parents and children by sending US citizens to Child Protective Services in San Diego and undocumented children to a family detention center in Pennsylvania.

Alejandra Campo and her sister Lisa
Alejandra Campo and her sister Lisa

(PORTLAND) - Yesterday, Tuesday March 18th, the last of 150 undocumented people, including eleven people from the northwest, attempted to reunite with their families by crossing the border into the United States. The 150 mothers, fathers, children, students, and LGBTQ people who crossed were all detained by border patrol and the majority remain in detention. Instead of immediately releasing the families into the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separated parents and children by sending US citizens to Child Protective Services in San Diego and undocumented children to a family detention center in Pennsylvania. This week thousands of people across the United States are rallying, holding vigils, signing petitions and lobbying their representatives in order to reunite these families back in the United States.

Between March 10th and 18th, 150 undocumented people crossed into the United States from Mexico at the Otay-Mesa Point of Entry in San Diego, CA. The border crossing, a part of the Bring Them Home project, included eleven people from the Pacific Northwest attempting to reunite with their families. Dolores from Yakima, Washington was deported on Thursday, March 6th. The same day his ten year old US citizen daughter, Jessica, was released from custody to her sister in the US. Jessica is now speaking out about the injustices and mistreatment she saw while she was detained. A video interview with Jessica can be found at http://vimeo.com/88849236#at=0c

Bring Them Home is a cross-border response to the crisis of mass deportations in the United States. The project was initiated in July 2013 when the Dream 9, a group of undocumented youth, pioneered a bold new tactic to return to their homes in the US. They crossed the US-Mexico border into Arizona and voluntarily turned themselves into Border Patrol. Typically, this would result in immediate deportation. However, because of mobilization by their families in their home states and a huge outpouring of community support, the Dream 9 were released back to their families in the U.S. after just two weeks in detention.

Over the last 2 weeks, Bring Them Home has mobilized their largest action yet. Primarily led by US immigrant families and those deported from the United States, the action was supported by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, DREAM activists (DREAMers), community allies, faith groups, and immigrant rights organizations. “The goal of this action is to reunite 250 family members. The immigration system isn’t working. Borders have broken our families and communities. We will not wait for the government to tell us when we can reunite with our loved ones that have been deported. We are taking matters into our own hands,” says Liliana Luna, an undocumented DREAMer leading the effort to Bring Them Home to the Northwest. When pressed about whether people with criminal records should be allowed to return home, Liliana stated, “The real question is why people have been deported in the first place. If it weren’t for racist anti-immigrant legislation, like Secure Communities, our families wouldn’t be be separated.”

Rosario Lopez, another organizer with Bring Them Home NW says, “At its heart we are talking about humanity and how we are treating each other. We believe all of the 2 million men, women, and children who have been deported since President Obama took office deserve to come home. We are doing this for all people who have been deported.”

Follow BringThemHome on Twitter at: @ORDreamActivist and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/BringThemHomeOregon.

Donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/6wxjtk

Biographies for the Northwest participants of Bring Them Home:

Maria Angela Zapoteco Juárez and her two children came to the United States in July of 1990 to reunite with her husband. She worked as a teaching assistant, daycare provider, and housekeeper in order to provide for her family. She was swept up into deportation proceedings in 2006. After fighting her case for two years and experiencing legal fraud, she was pressured to sign a voluntary departure.

Both in the United States and Mexico, she has experienced violence at the hands of her husband. She has been forced into hiding in Mexico out of fear for her life. It has been six years since she has seen her daughters and granddaughters in Oregon. She wants to return to her family in Oregon to meet her newborn granddaughter and find safety away from her violent husband.

In 2001, Dolores Lara Villegas came to the United States to give his family a better life. He lived in the United States for 11 years. During those years, he worked in the agricultural fields and watched his children grew up. He dreamed that his children would have the opportunity to be educated; a dream he was not able to fulfill for himself. His dream has partially come true. Two of his three children are now attending college in the United States. However in 2011, Dolores was deported back to Sonora, Mexico and was separated from his family and his dream.

In Sonora, Dolores learned that “home is not the country where you are born but the place you create for yourself.” He was unable to find a job for many months. Most of all, the pain of missing his children has been the hardest change for him. His children are his strength and support system. He hears his children cry over the phone each time they talk. He wants to return to the United States. He does not want another year to pass before he sees his children.

Kimberly Sotelo Ochoa was three years old when she came to Washington with her mother. For the past 17 years, her life revolved around her school and family. She learned English, made friends, joined after school clubs, and played sports. She dreamed of going to college and becoming a surgeon to save people’s lives. After high school, Kimberly’s undocumented status made it nearly impossible for her to apply to colleges, scholarships, and jobs. She returned to Mexico with the hope of realizing her dream of attending college.

Life in Sonora, Mexico has been a nightmare since Kimberly stepped foot there. She had to adapt to a country she didn’t know. She has been bullied because of her accent, mugged, and threatened. She constantly feels unsafe. Kimberly wants to return back to Washington, the place that feels like home. She hopes to pursue her dreams and live a safe life back in the United States. More importantly, she wants her family in Washington back by her side. Learn more about Kimberly’s story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDN42nn5vsc&feature=youtu.bev

In 1998, Elvira Yolanda Olguin Estrada came to the United States to create a better life with her sisters, father, husband and daughter. She dreamed of buying a home, paying for her children to go to college and one day obtaining a visa to live in the country legally. After her husband was deported, she decided to move back to Mexico with her children in order to keep her family together.

Upon Elvira’s return to Michoacan, she realized she had made a huge mistake leaving the U.S. Everyday violence threatened the health and safety of her family. She lost confidence in the police and feared that her family might be harmed in a shooting. Elvira misses the days when she woke up early to take her kids to the bus stop, to prepare coffee and head off to work without worrying about the safety of herself and her familiy. She wants to return to the place she considers her home, the United States.

Jose Manuel Morales Chavez came to the United States in 1999 to reunite with his wife and daughter. For years, he worked in the fields picking cherries, grapes, apples, carrots and asparagus. One day on his way to work he was picked up by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. He returned to the US for a short while to be with his family, but lived in constant fear. He made the difficult decision to move back to Mexico with his family in 2009.

It has been extremely difficult for Jose and his family in Michoacan. One day at work, he was held at gunpoint and his life was threatened. The same men called his home, claiming to have kidnapped his children and asking for money in exchange for their return. Jose wants to leave the violence and insecurity in Michoacan behind and return to a life where his dreams of owning a home and sending his children to college are possible.

Paola Citlally Morales Olguin was brought to the United States by her mother when she was a baby. She loved growing up with her friends and family in Washington. She dreamed of going to college and studying. She lived in Washington until her mother decided to return to Mexico with Paola and her brother.

In Mexico, Paola faced many challenges. She was made fun of and bullied because of growing up in the United States. A classmate who claimed to be connected to a drug cartel threatened her life at school. Her principal ignored the issue and did nothing to change the situation. Paola is ready to return to her home, family, friends and especially to her school. She hopes to come back to fulfill her dream of getting educated and going to college.

In 1999, Sandra Veronica Ramos Ramirez came to the United States to help her cousins care for their children. Sandra and her children liked their life and community in Nevada. However, she experienced violence from the father of her children. She was forced to return to Mexico by her daughter’s father after his family took their child back to Mexico without her consent. It has been difficult for Sandra and her children in Mexico. Her children were bullied at school because they couldn’t read in Spanish. Further, Sandra fears letting her children go to school alone, because of the increase in violence by drug traffickers and armed groups. Her children and Sandra want to return back to their home in Las Vegas.

Sandra will be crossing the border with her 4 children to return to her home to Nevada. Her dream is to see her children grow up, go to school, and to be good students. Her goal is to have a good job to give her children a better life. She wants to be an example for her children, community, and this country that is her home.

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