Saturday, December 9, 2023

Hispanic Caucus Members Hear From Families Torn Apart by Immigration Law

Representative Luis Gutierrez  (D-Ill.), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with hundreds at a church in Morristown, New Jersey to listen to personal testimonies from immigrant families who have had loved ones deported due to current immigration law.

Gutierrez has been leading a nation wide tour called “Familias Unidas” (translated “Family Unity”) as part of a national effort to set the stage for President Obama’s comprehensive immigration reform agenda.

The immigration tour is also an effort to educate the public about discrimination that Hispanics often experience because of increased crackdown on immigrants. According to some reports 200 people erroneously have been deported.

Gutierrez has visited 22 cities holding rallies in churches because that is where help traditionally comes from when immigrants are in need, he said. His goal is to combine activist organizations and faith-based groups to fight for immigration reform.

At a press conference following his New Jersey “Familias Unidas” rally at the Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Senor, Menendez said “Comprehensive immigration reform will ultimately nullify the need for a 287(g).”  This provision of the law allows local law enforcement to stop people for immigration offenses. Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello applied for 287(g) status in February, 2007.

This law has caused quite the controversy and New Jersey area pro-immigrant rights groups were present at the rally to show their support for immigration reform and hear three personal stories where deportation has threatened family stability.

Stuart Sydenstricker, board chair for Wind of the Spirit, a pro-immigrant rights group in Morristown, says the nation’s immigration laws have failed, “It’s time to change the system that has failed the nation for more than 30 years.”

Some of the stories told at the rally struck an emotional chord with the audience.  Local press reports that nearly two years ago, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents burst into a residence and arrested Juan Carlos, a Morristown high school student. He was deported last September, and his mother, Pilar, who is also undocumented has been trying to recover$10,000 that she paid for him in bail money. So far she has been to the ICE offices ten times, where she has been told that the money will be forthcoming.

At the rally, speakers in the large Pentecostal church described families being broken up because of deportation. In a dramatic moment, Rep. Albio Sires (D-13th dist.) pulled up the long skirt of Ana Claros to reveal a plastic ankle bracelet.

Sires asked the 1,500 people at the rally, “I ask you, is this woman a criminal?” Claros who is a Piscataway resident already has lost her husband to deportation. Sires has been able to delay the woman’s deportation until September.

The daughter of Claros said, “Every day I go to school, I’m always afraid when I come back I won’t have my mom here.”

Sponsors of the Morristown event were the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey and The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.

Menendez said, “This is the civil rights issue of our time. This is about all of us together.”