On Thursday, December 8, 2011 I was part of a delegation that delivered over 5,000 letters to members of Congress that had been written by children from all across the nation.
The event was organized by the We Belong Together Campaign and was held in celebration of International Human Rights Day. Children of all ages and backgrounds were talking about their wish to be together with their parents and families (during the holidays and beyond), without fear of separation or deportation.
Some of the kids were U.S. born citizens of immigrant parents, some of them were undocumented themselves, and some of them wrote letters because they were worried about the families of their friends.
One day I got home and watched TV. Then my dad walked in and said “There are some people here”. So mom got up from scrubing the floor and some weird people walked in and went in the basement. With my dad and my mom walked up stairs and started crying. Then she said, “they’re taking your dad away.” And before I knew it they were gone. My dad even forgot to say “good-bye. After my dad was taken away for a while, I thought we weren’t a family anymore. I was so sad and mad I couldn’t think clearly.
As I was carting one of the boxes over to the Hart building for the press conference, I took a peak at some of the other letters. Their words and their pictures impacted me. It struck me that all they could do was hope that members of Congress and the Obama administration would listen to their stories and do something to make their young lives a little less precarious, lonely, and uncertain. What sort of reaction did we get from the staffers who received our letters?My role that day was to visually document the events that unfolded so I was keenly aware of their faces and their attitudes. I was traveling with a group of four Spanish speaking women from Tenants and Workers United. Some of the “anti-immigrant” congressional offices looked at us as if were aliens from another world- blank stares of indifference. One of the “pro-immigrant” congressional staffers did stop and engage in conversation with us. It was great.
Sadly, many of the individuals who wanted to come out and participate in the day’s events were kept at bay because they were afraid of random document checks. Maybe these letters will do something to persuade politicians to pursue more humane legislation (such as the HELP Act) that allows immigrant families to speak, act, and live without this fear. Given the recent news that the Supreme Court has decided to review Arizona’s less than immigrant friendly immigration law, perhaps we are moving in the right direction.
Celia Garcia Perez is a 2011 fall intern with the Break The Chain Campaign.