Immigration advocates: 'We're going to keep fighting'
The morning after President Obama announced action that would allow some 5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status, members and supporters of Juntos gathered outside of the Philadelphia Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office as part of a National Day of Action to recognize the more than 6 million undocumented immigrants not eligible for temporary legal status or currently detained.
“We are extremely happy and excited for the people who did qualify under President Obama’s announcement,” Juntos youth organizer Miguel Andrade said. “But we also know that this is just the beginning. We also know that millions of people are going to be left out.”
Only immigrants who have been in the U.S. for five years and are an undocumented parent of a U.S. citizen or individual who arrived in the U.S. when they were younger than 16 were made eligible to apply for temporary relief.
Mauro Tlatenco was one of the dozens of activists who joined the rally. Tlatenco said that he is not eligible for temporary relief.
“I currently have a deportation order but I’m very glad that I’m able to fight from the outside unlike many of my community members who are still stuck on the detention side,” Tlatenco said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”
Another advocate, Maritza Guzman, said that she is fighting on the outside, too. Her husband, however, is fighting from within, as he has been in a York County prison for six months in detention. Guzman said that her children are in counseling to cope with fear of never seeing their father again. They also have asthma, and Guzman said that she struggled with keeping a job and ensuring the health of her children on her own.
“I’m a little bit torn because President Obama said himself, ‘No more deportations,’” Guzman said. “My husband has been in the country for over ten years. He has been working. We have been paying our taxes to this country. If he was to be deported, it would destroy my family completely.”
Elicia Gonzales, director of Galaei, a queer Latino organization based in Philadelphia, joined the rally to read a letter she wrote as a citizen to President Obama pointing out the thousands of LGBT undocumented immigrants, mostly Latino, ignored in the immigration plan.
“I stand in solidarity with the more than 267,000 undocumented lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults who live in perpetual fear of deportation to over 80 countries where it is a crime to just be who we are,” Gonzales said. “Granting release to only immigrants that have familial ties to the U.S. unfairly impacts those of us who are LGBT because we are more unlikely to have children or to be recognized as parents in the state that we live.”
Philadelphia was just one of 20 cities that participated in the National Day of Action.