LatinaLista — Today in Washington, in Room 2141 of the Rayburn Building, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held a hearing on the STRIVE Act — a bipartisan immigration reform legislation introduced earlier this year by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
To many who have been involved from the onset to push Congress to adopt just and fair immigration reform measures, these hearings and what they result in is the Final Curtain call for the issue before it’s mothballed until after the Presidential election.
But while it’s easy to slate a postponement on issues, it’s not easy for millions of families to continue to endure conditions indefinitely brought about by not having a definitive judgment in place.
These people are suffering and it’s decent human nature to want to ease that suffering — even if the government says it’s obstructing the law.
Last night, on Univision’s Don Francisco program, several children tearfully told of how ICE agents came to their homes and at gunpoint took their parents away.
The Barrios children recount the deportation of their father 8 months ago.
In one interview, the oldest child, 17-year-old Leslie, described to the show’s host what happened on the night the agents came to their home: (translation to follow)
Don Francisco: Â¿CuÃ¡ndo fue que tus padres fueron deportados?
Leslie: El 22 de febrero de este aÃ±o. A las 7 y media de la noche inmigraciÃ³n fue a la casa. MÃ¡s de 15 agentes buscaron por toda la casa, no se quÃ© estaban buscando, nos trataron como criminales, a mi papÃ¡ no lo dejaron entrar a la casa, lo esposaron afuera y todos llorÃ¡bamos desesperadamente. Yo tuve que ser la fuerte y tuve que tomar la responsabilidad.
Don Francisco: When were your parents deported?
Leslie: February 22 of this year. At 7:30 at night, immigration went to the house. More than 15 agents looked all over the house, I don’t know what they were looking for, they treated us like criminals, they wouldn’t let my father enter the house, they handcuffed him outside and we all cried desperately. I had to be the strong one and I had to accept the responsibility (of younger siblings).
Child after child tearfully told of how their parents were treated like dangerous criminals, not given a chance to defend themselves or say anything but carted away leaving their children behind crying for them, and in some cases not knowing who was going to take care of them.
These stories were not invented especially for this program to extract tears from the viewers. They are stories that have been repeated with regularity from the eyewitnesses – the children – whose sense of pain and trauma is very fresh with each retelling of what they lived through.
Yet, all along, even in the face of eyewitness accounts, ICE denies that they conduct themselves in such a manner when apprehending undocumented immigrants.
It’s their word against hundreds of eyewitnesses but because these eyewitnesses are children or don’t speak English or are here illegally, then they’re ignored or discounted.
Well, not in Massachusetts.
It seems ICE is doing everything there in that state that they profess they don’t do: conduct random sweeps, and when arriving to deport one undocumented immigrant detain everyone present and in sweeps to arrest gang members, pick up non-criminal undocumented immigrants as well.
The people have been reduced to living in fear. That’s why some state non-profit groups are holding information sessions for undocumented immigrants and explaining to them that they do have legal options.
The nonprofit groups conducting these sessions tell the immigrants if they are confronted by ICE agents: don’t lie, don’t run, don’t carry false papers. Just stay silent or ask for a lawyer.
Joel Rodriguez, an organizer with the Alliance to Develop Power, listened to the concerns of immigrants at a meeting in Springfield last week and discussed their rights. (NANCY PALMIERI FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
They are then given fliers outlining their rights, business-size cards to give to federal agents that explain why they won’t speak and an emergency plan so that they can arrange child care in case they are arrested.
This simple advice is getting ICE and anti-immigrant supporters all bent out of shape.
One called what the nonprofits are doing as “immoral.”
An ICE spokesperson said that they would “encourage organizations that are engaging in that kind of information distribution to stop.”
Well, until ICE and the federal government understand that they’re dealing with people who have families and for whom the majority have never ever committed a crime, these sessions will continue.
In fact, several agencies in the state plan to step up their training sessions.
If raids and sweeps continue with blatant disregard for children who are present and basic human rights ignored, ICE may find that Boston may just be the starting site for a whole new Revolution.