Immigration – The Search for a Better Life
Posted by shadmia on May 7, 2007
The recent May Day Immigration March held nationwide drew hundreds of thousands demanding reform of US immigration policy. Although it was much smaller than the year before, it still showed that this is a topic that deserves national attention. In a recent speech President Bush affirmed his support for a comprehensive reform of immigration policy.
“I’m looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans to get a comprehensive immigration bill done this year. We have a good chance to get it done. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand comprehensive immigration reform is in the nation’s interest. And I’ll continue working with members of Congress to encourage them to do the hard work necessary to make sure a system that is not working is reformed in a way that meets our national needs and listens to our national heart. After all, America is a land of immigrants. Immigration helps renew our soul. It helps redefine our spirit in a positive way.”
Bush also laid out what he considers to be a “Comprehensive” overhaul of the system:
- Help people learn English
- Uphold our laws and enforce our borders humanely
- A Temporary Guest Worker Program
- Employers have to obey the law
- Humane treatment of illegals already here
Congress is due to take up the immigration question on May 14. For a look at some of the issues involved and the process click here. In the meantime the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began a program in May 2006 called “Return to Sender”. Its purpose was to collect undocumented immigrants who have ignored deportation orders, have been convicted of crimes or pose a threat to national security. It has netted to date more than 18,000 people by conducting a series of raids on businesses and residences. Even though the targets of the program are illegals who are under court order or have committed crimes, many of those rounded up do not fall into these categories.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said that while the main goal of Operation Return to Sender is to capture those who have evaded the law and ignored court orders, immigration officers who stumble upon other undocumented individuals will take them into custody, too.
Many illegal immigrants have families with children born in the US. Such is the case with Pedro Ramirez and his wife Isabel Aguirre. Pedro Ramirez, who had worked at an Albertson’s supermarket, was deported in February. His wife, Isabel Aguirre, was arrested and ordered deported at the same time but given a monitoring ankle bracelet and some time to make arrangements for the children and to purchase a ticket home.
“We’ve been working with these people for years,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lori Haley. “Now it’s up to the parents what they want to do. They can take the children with them, or leave them with relatives or people they can entrust them to.” They have four children Pedro 15, Adrian 12, Yadira 10, and Adriana 6. While crying Adrian tried to describe his feelings:
“I want my family to be together,” he said, wiping away tears as Yadira, 10, and Adriana, 6, stared at their shoes. “I want them to stop these laws. I don’t know what life would be like in Mexico. My home is in Palo Alto.”
The two younger children want to stay with their parents but Pedro 15, a sophomore at Gunn High School, struggled with the decision, trying to keep up with school but breaking into tears at times, “He wants to stay. He has a life, aspirations here,” said Chris Schulz his Math teacher “But he’s decided to go, to support his mother and his family.”
“Is it really a choice? Staying in foster care, or leaving with their parents?” asked Samina F. Sundas, the founder of American Muslim Voice, which is trying to help the Ramirez family.
In another incident Lilo Mancia and his family face a similar predicament. The day after his wife was deported to their home country, Honduras, Lilo Mancía grieved as though she had died.
Mr. Mancía and his wife were among 361 workers arrested on March 6 in an immigration raid at Michael Bianco Inc., a leather goods factory in this faded manufacturing town. She remained in detention while he was released to care for their boys, Jeffrey, 2, and Kevin, 5. On April 18, Ms. Amaya was awakened at 4 a.m., driven by immigration agents to Kennedy Airport in New York and placed on a passenger flight to Honduras, Mr. Mancía said. Telephoning her husband as soon as she could place an international call, she said little, only that she was disoriented and more afraid of her home country than an American jail. She has no house, property or job in Honduras.
Mr. Mancía said he and his wife had decided to leave their home in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for their safety, because criminal gangs used the streets as a combat zone. Ms. Amaya’s sister was on a public bus returning from Christmas shopping on Dec. 23, 2004, when gang gunmen shot it up, killing her and 27 other passengers, he said.
“We walked over dead bodies in Honduras,” Mr. Mancía said. “The children see that and they don’t grow up well.”
Mr. Mancía is fighting his own deportation order. He was preparing for any outcome, even the prospect of a separation from one or both sons so they could remain at least temporarily in the United States.
“My son is an American,” Mr. Mancía said “He needs to be educated in American schools, to speak English. He needs this country.”