From the Mexico border to Washington DC, a group of families and activists fight to reunite Jaime Vasquez and Ardani Rosales with their families; these two fathers represent more than 2 million people deported over the last 5 years. The actions call on President Obama to stop deportations.
OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: The fight for the immigration reform, and especially to stop the separation of families by immigration enforcement in the United States, is at a crucial point. While the immigration reform law is immobilized in Congress by intense political pressure, the deportations continue.
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Activist and human rights organizations’ campaigns continue to gather support for immigration reform and to exert pressure over authorities to stop certain deportations and to even reunite some families.
Even in Rome, Buzzfeed reported that heeding the petition by Jersey Vargas, a 10-year-old girl, from Los Angeles, Pope Francis asked President Barack Obama, who visited him in the Vatican, to intercede for the little girl’s father and stop his deportation process.
This strategy apparently worked, as Mario Vargas was released the next day from a jail in Louisiana. Vargas had a clean profile, a U.S. native son, a daughter who qualifies under the DREAM Act, and the help of pro bono attorney Alex Galvez.
In that context, a week of action took place, first in Arizona and eventually nationwide.
On Tuesday, April 1, a group of activists and families traveled to the border entry of Nogales to support the return of Jaime Valdez and Ardani Rosales, two parents who, according to their families, had been deported by ICE as a retaliation, in the context of many weeks of direct actions, when the family, supported by activist, was protesting outside Immigration and Customs office in Phoenix.
LEÓN: According to these families turned activists on February 26, 2014, Phoenix Police raided them while fasting outside the ICE office. At the same time, ICE deported Jaime Valdez, accusing him of inciting other detainees to join the hunger strike, as Jaime told his father once deported. He had spent three months in Joe Arpaio’s Tent City before serving another eight months in the notorious conditions of Eloy for-profit prison.
JAIME VALDEZ, RETURNING DEPORTEE: I’m here in Nogales in this community center. [SUBTITLED TRANSL.] and I want to go back (to U.S.), because I love my family.
LEÓN: For Ardani Rosales’s family it was very hard as well. His wife gave birth while he was in jail for one year and nine months, before being deported while his family protested outside the detention center.
NAIRA ZAPATA, WIFE OF ARDANI ROSALES (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): My husband Ardani was detained when I was two months pregnant with my daughter. Now she’s eight months. He was deported when we were in front of ICE, praying for them to let him go. Sadly, they took him out the back entrance so we wouldn’t see him, and he was deported.
LEÓN: Now the activists of Puente Arizona are promoting an active campaign to ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement to re-open their immigration cases. For that purpose, on Tuesday, April 1, at 11 a.m. Jaime presented himself at the Mexican side of the border in Nogales.
ACTIVISTS: Bring Jaime home!
JAIME VALDEZ, RETURNING DEPORTEE: Today we’re going to try to get into the U.S. by the port of Nogales.
LEÓN: A group of activists and families gathered outside the border control office to show support. He was detained upon entering U.S.
Jose Valdez, Jaime’s father, watched from Puente offices in Phoenix as his son entered the offices accompanied by his lawyer.
That day, Ardani Rosales failed to appear in the Nogales Gate. His son Pablito was waiting for him, accompanied by Puente activists. Naira, Ardani’s wife, was not able to risk a trip to the border.
On Wednesday, April 2, Ardani arrived to Nogales, and after so many months away, on the Mexican side of the border he was able to spend some time with his son Pablito before surrendering himself on the U.S. border in Nogales.
To support them, a group of activists initiated parallel direct actions. A march of members of Puente and families of deportees initiated a 70 mile walk from Phoenix to Eloy detention centers. They walked for three days and camped outside the for-profit prisons.
CARLOS PUENTE, EXEC. DIR., PUENTE: So right now we’re outside the Eloy Detention Center after a three-day 60 mile march from the Phoenix ICE offices. Right now we’re setting up camp, ’cause we’re going to be sleeping here, having a vigil outside the detention center. And tomorrow we’ll be having a rally outside the Eloy detention center, asking to stop the deportations and [allow] the release of our family members.
LEÓN: Other group of activist and families initiated an even longer trip to the capital of the country, in an effort they identified under the hashtag #AZ2DC. Since Thursday, they demonstrated outside the White House and in many other parts of Washington, District of Columbia. Many more people joined over the weekend, reaching out to President Obama to ask for an end to deportations and separations of family.
On Saturday, the protest to support this effort reached many cities, including Phoenix, Des Moines, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Huffington Post reported actions planned in more than 50 cities across the United States.
CESAR VARGAS, DIRECTOR, DREAM ACTION COALITION: So we are seeing a great strength of coming out from people who are being affected. Well, there’s a lot of leadership encouraged because people are no longer afraid. So that has been an extraordinary development of really the community coming out and saying, enough is enough, Mr. President, we need to story this, the crisis.
LEÓN: The New York Times in a Sunday editorial speaking about the president, the editorial board, summed it up this way:
“All Mr. Obama has been saying lately is: No, in fact, we can’t, because Republicans and the law won’t let me.”
After noting that while making promises to the immigrant community Obama has ramped up the enforcement, with over 2 million deportees in the last five years and more than 5,000 children ending in foster care, the editorial board of New York Times called the president up this way:
“The administration should abandon quota-based enforcement driven by the urge to fill more than 30,000 detention beds every day. And it should require bond hearings before immigration judges for people who have been held longer than six months, and end solitary confinement and other abusive conditions for detainees. Above all, it should direct the nation’s vast immigration enforcement resources more forcefully against gangs, guns, violent criminals and other genuine threats.
“These and other reforms should not be confused with a comprehensive overhaul of immigration, which only Congress can achieve. But they are ways to push a failing system toward sanity and justice.”
Back in Arizona, Jaime and Ardani are in prison waiting and wishing to go back to their families and their lives. His lawyer explains the case.
RAY A. YBARRA MALDONADO, LAWYER REPRESENTING JAIME VALDEZ AND ARDANI ROSALES: So Ardani and Jaime’s cases are extremely weak. These are cases of two individuals who have already been ordered deported, they’ve had their day in front of an immigration judge, and immigration said, denied, removed to your country of origin.
Despite them being deported, they decided to come back into the country. We presented a petition for humanitarian parole to allow them back into the country.
They’re now detained in Florence, Arizona. What I’ve been told by the deportation officer: waiting for a day with the immigration judge, which is great for both of their cases. But it is something different that we haven’t really seen before, of people trying to come back after already very shortly being deported.
LEÓN: Jaime and Ardani now face a complex legal battle before being able to go back to their home and his family. However, in this battle, now they have the backup of a community of activist and families supporting the fight for Not One More deportation.
Outside the White House, the activists remain demonstrating and claim they wont leave until president Obama hears their petitions and frees Jaime Valdez and Ardani Rosales.
Reporting for The Real News, this is Oscar León.