National Dialogues on Immigration

Mothers: A Tribute to Family

May 16, 2014  |  Featured News,News
Illinois Women for Compassionate Immigration Reform-

by Jennifer Scott

“Home is whenever I’m with you”
from “Home,” a song from Jorge Narvaez to his mother

In tribute to Mother’s Day, this piece is dedicated to all of the mothers who are affected by immigration policies. The recent spike in deportations – two million since 2009 – has greatly impacted families, often separating parents from children and siblings from one another, breaking up marriages and extended families. No one has felt this pain more than the mothers.

On May 7, mothers from around the country visited Washington DC to deliver 1000 postcards to President Obama urging him to stop deportations. One mother even appealed to First Lady, Michelle Obama, “Let her heart be moved and let her know the suffering that, for mothers, is separation from their children.”

At the end of last month, seven children, aged 11- 17, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience at an immigration protest outside of the US Capitol. They were trying to draw attention to the need for action from legislators on immigration reform.  All of the young activists’ were from families that had been torn apart up by deportations.

One little girl, Indhire Carrillo, only 14 years old, whose father was deported, pleaded, “My mom, she has to work three jobs, and that is really hard for her. My youngest sibling just turned 11 and it’s hard for him. He hasn’t had his dad.” Yahir Servin, an eleven year old boy, wise beyond his years, stated, “Families need to stay together, because sometimes you need the love of your father and your mother and your sister. It’s too hard without that support.” There are countless stories of missed birthdays, graduations, funerals, and other milestones in people’s lives that they cannot share with loved ones because of deportation.

Under President Obama, one of the most devastating policies for families has been the expansion of the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, originally launched in 2008.  This allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to work with state and local jails technologically through fingerprints to identify who is deportable. The recent increased deportation rate has been primarily attributed to this policy. Opposition to Secure Communities, however, is growing rapidly and includes politicians, such as the Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) and the Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who refuse to honor ICE’s requests to detain individuals. Also, thanks to grassroots efforts, such as the #Not1More Deportation campaign organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the #BringThemHome work of the National Youth Immigrant Alliance, the current system of deportations that breaks up families is being challenged.

Losing one’s mother can be truly devastating to an entire family’s well-being. A local immigration organizer in Laurel, Mississippi states, “The father is important. If a father is deported, it’s hard. But if the mother is deported, sometimes she has to take her kids. Imagine the effect this has on the children. They don’t know the language, the customs. It’s cruel.”  David Gonzalez, a freshman in college in aerospace engineering, just recently lost his mother to deportation. After returning to Mexico to visit her father who was dying, his mother was not allowed to return to the U.S. They have been apart for more than three years. Gonzalez lamented, “With my mother not being around, my family is separated. I have my brother — my little twelve-year-old brother — he’s living with some relatives, my sister is living with her friend. It’s just hard living with our family not being together.”

There are some hopeful stories, too. Jorge Narvaez was happily reunited this week with his mother, Esther Alvarado, who crossed the border from Mexico as undocumented in the 1980’s. Navarez, a legal US citizen, has been fighting for seven years to get his mother back to the US, and even went so far as waging a campaign on Youtube, performing a sweet musical tribute to his mother along with one of his daughters, singing a song called “Home.”  It went viral, and Navarez ended up on the Ellen De Generes Show advocating for his mother’s return. Last month, in April, his mother, along with a group of women, surrendered to U.S. Border Patrol Agents, requested asylum and was detained. Alvarado who is currently released on bail in San Diego as she awaits her court date, calls her return to her family, an early Mother’s Day present. You can watch the reunion here.

Special occasions, such as Mother’s Day are especially hard on families who are divided. One author explains, “Holidays like Mother’s Day aren’t easy for those who were left behind. For many all over the U.S., Mother’s Day reminds them of a deportation that separated a family. It could have happened at a checkpoint, a workplace raid, due to a negligent attorney, or a “self-deportation” because of anti-immigrant conditions. For those lucky enough to still have their family together, policies such as Secure Communities threaten to separate many immigrant and mixed-status families. In addition, many mothers will spend their day remembering a deported child or husband.”

In these days after Mother’s Day, let us keep in mind all of the mothers who are apart from their children and loved ones. In fact, let’s go one step further: commit to taking action to make their lives easier. The “thanks, the hugs and the cards” are great, as Laura Reyes says in her article, “What Moms Really Want”, “but this year, go beyond these annual gestures. In honor of mothers, she urges us to: join with other moms and allies to demand comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together and boosts our nation’s economy; gear up to be a force in the 2014 midterm elections; vote for the candidates who support workers and the middle class, no matter their political party. What could be a better Mother’s Day gift than doing more to support one of the toughest jobs around!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *