National Dialogues on Immigration

The Perfect Fathers’ Day Gift

June 19, 2014  |  Featured News,News
Daniel Neyoy Ruiz and his family from “Celebrate Our Victory/ Vengan para Celebrar este Exito!

“While the politics of a system play out, the mothers and fathers and children still deserve to feel like they belong” — Cristina Henriquez

What does President Obama want for Fathers’ Day? “A “loyal, rational opposition,” one that he can negotiate with on immigration legislation.

Following the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by Dave Brat in the Virginia Republican primary elections, Obama still believes that bipartisan immigration reform is possible. Cantor had once backed a limited path of citizenship for undocumented youth, while Brat’s campaign portrayed Cantor as overly sympathetic to undocumented immigrants. Currently, a bipartisan immigration bill that has passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate is held up in the Republican-controlled House with stiff opposition. Obama’s Father’s Day wish is to move forward on this legislation with reasonable cooperation and compromise.

In a touching reflection, Cristina Henriquez, shares her father’s struggles as he left his home country of Panama in1971 to come to the United States to study chemical engineering at the University of Delaware. She says that when he arrived, “he had a suitcase, he spoke halting English, and he didn’t know a soul.”

“Immigrants come to the United States for so many reasons. Some, like my father, come for an education. Some come out of necessity – they’ve been exiled, or they’re seeking asylum, or they’re looking for the medical care they couldn’t find at home. Some come out of longing, a desire to find their way to that basic idea: a better life. Still others come out of love, a guileless love for a country they don’t yet know but that they hope will be all they’ve dreamed. They come to be part of a shared experience. It’s the same thing we all want: to feel that we belong – to something, to someone, to somewhere.”

But belonging is not guaranteed. After 40 years of living in the US, her father is still, not fully accepted. She can see, painfully, that he does not feel that he fits in. It is hard to feel like one belongs when one is shut out, barriers are created, or walls are erected to insure distance. Henriquez urges us in the discussion surrounding immigration to “keep immigrants themselves – people’s children, mothers, fathers – at the center. Until we think of immigration as a human issue and not a bureaucratic one, we won’t get very far.”

Sadly, not everyone will be able to spend time with their fathers on Fathers’ Day.  In anticipation of Fathers’ Day, many rallies have been held in protest of increased deportations and detentions. This past Thursday, a vigil was held in Long Island to draw attention to all of those undocumented fathers who were separated from their families through deportation. Many of these fathers are the primary breadwinners and are being deported on minor offenses and non-violent crimes. Wendy Urbana says her husband’s deportation has affected her family greatly: “economically and morally, because her son now has behavioral issues that he did not display before.” Long Island currently makes up 44 percent of all of New York State’s deportations.

Fortunately, there are some reunions. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, an undocumented immigrant, had been living in sanctuary with his wife and son at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona since mid-May. His deportation battles began in 2011 when he was stopped for a minor traffic issue – a smoking exhaust pipe. This week Ruiz has been granted a year-long stay in his deportation case that is renewable, after being turned down previously twice. When he learned the news, Ruiz said, “I just began to cry. And I hugged everyone who is here at the church.” His attorney summed up his common situation:

“It’s fantastic, it’s just wonderful. It’s a larger story because Daniel is every man. He makes us think of the fathers who left because they didn’t know what else to do, the fathers who are in hiding. He makes us think of the children who wonder every night if their father is coming home.”

You can watch Rev. Alison Harrington, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, explain the growing sanctuary movement and why she offered sanctuary at her church to a Daniel Neyoy Ruiz here.

On this Fathers’ Day, let us keep in mind those who are separated from their fathers because of immigration issues.  As one sign read at a recent rally at a detention center in Florida, “Father’s Day means nothing without a father to celebrate.”


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