Thursday night I heard a banging knock at the door. I looked through the window and immigration agents asked me to open the door, conducting an “investigation.” They asked for Maria, my mother, and as soon she stepped out they abruptly, forcefully pulled her out and handcuffed her in front of me and Angel, my 16 year old brother. They also detained my older brother for no cause. Angel pointed out to them that they needed to take her medications because of her cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. They laughed in his face, then ignored him. I felt helpless. Under this horrific scenario I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to run and pull them both away from them but I couldn’t.
I spent an entire night crying and lonely. At every corner of my house, my mother and brother’s touches and memories were there. The most important people in my life had been taken from me.
At that point I remembered that I am also an immigrant rights advocate and that I have a national community and youth movement behind me. Within minutes I made calls, typed text messages, and signed on social media to tell friends what had just occurred. Pleading, I made a call to action. Almost immediately, community leaders and elected officials from Arizona, Florida, New York and Washington D.C. activated a national network of political power within the Latino community. The morning after, my brother was released from detention. Three hours later we learned that the bus taking her to the border had turned around and my mother was coming back home.
First, there’s the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in this nation live in fear of every knock on the door. These people who have come to the United States to make their lives better, and to make our country better. So when you hear these individual stories, it’s terrible.
But it gets more disturbing. Erika Andiola, the lead author on this letter, is an immigration activist. She knew what to do when her mother and brother were taken. She tapped into her network and got them freed. But there’s one of two possibilities here. First, her mother and brother were taken without cause and about to be shipped to Mexico for no reason, violating their rights. Or second, the immigration system is so irrevocably broken that even if, under current law, these people could legally be shipped back to Mexico, the system is so arbitrary that a few phone calls can change the status of an individual.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of immigrants don’t have activist family members like Andiola and they get shipped out of the country. It’s stories like these, with cops rounding up people at home and work, which is why we need comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.
That leads us to what are at least some interesting words from Marco Rubio. If he’s willing to basically accept the Obama immigration plan, then I think we are in good shape for something real happening. Although it should be noted that massive backlash from the Republican base could make that difficult in the House. But I do think something positive will happen. Part of me wants Obama to use this leverage to move the goalposts more toward immigrant rights. The back taxes thing is absurd–not only do most immigrants pay taxes, but they are ineligible for many services. Maybe the government should pay the immigrants for their wasted taxes. But in any case, the important thing is that something gets passed to give immigrants a path to citizenship.