Alfredo Carrillo, Norma Barron and more than 150 other immigrants will attempt to cross the California-Mexico border today as part of #BringThemHome, an effort being led by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. The purpose? To reunite family members who've been separated by deportation and other immigration laws. Carrillo's wife and three children are still in Colorado, as are Barron's husband, four children and grandchildren. Tonight, local immigrant advocates will hold a rally in Aurora to support them and others.
"This is a classic act of civil disobedience," Jennifer Piper of the Denver chapter of the American Friends Service Committee says of the border crossing, "where the people understand the consequences under the law but are trying to draw attention to the pain and suffering this has caused them and their families."
Carrillo, whose story we told in an earlier blog post, came to the United States from Mexico in 1996 to work construction. He married his wife, Adriana, in 1998 and the couple went on to have three children, who are U.S. citizens.
In 2008, he was pulled over and arrested for driving without a license. The incident landed him in deportation proceedings, and before his family could gather the money to bond him out of the immigration detention center, he was deported to Mexico.
In 2010, he took a risk and returned to Colorado because his family was struggling without him. Two years later, in November 2012, the family was heading to dinner when their truck was pulled over, ostensibly for a faulty license plate light. Carrillo was arrested once again for driving without a license. Though his family fought to keep him here, he was deported on February 5, 2013.
Not wanting to be separated from his family, Carrillo made another attempt at crossing the border last year. But he was caught, detained in New Mexico and deported again.
Barron, on the other hand, has not been deported. After winning the battle to keep her husband from being deported, her mother fell ill and she traveled to Mexico to visit her. But because she is undocumented, Barron has been unable to legally cross back into the United States. "It's so dangerous and expensive to make that crossing without authorization, especially for women," Piper says.
This is the third time that the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, or NIYA, has organized a border crossing. The first two attempts were much smaller: the first involved nine people and the second involved thirty people. Both were relatively successful; though all of the participants were initially detained, most were released and able to return to their homes in the United States while they waited to see if they would be granted asylum in the U.S. or a rare type of immigration relief known as humanitarian parole.
NIYA has done a good job explaining to the more than 150 people participating in today's action that there are no guarantees their cases will turn out as well, Piper believes. But she says the participants are willing to risk it for two reasons: "One is just the depth of the destruction (caused by) our (immigration) enforcement system. The immorality of it inspires people to risk themselves to draw attention to that and help expose the impact of that system so people better understand why we need a change in policy.
"The second piece is the sheer misery of being separated from the people who are closest to you and how difficult it is to continue your life away from them. Even if (you're in) the place you're originally from, it's not home anymore."
Tonight's Colorado rally will be held adjacent to the GEO Detention Center at East 30th Avenue and Peoria Street in Aurora, where many immigrants facing deportation are held. It starts at 6 p.m. and will include song, poetry, prayer and a dramatization of the affected families' separation. Attendees will also hear from representatives of the Carrillo and Barron families, as well as watch a video featuring Ramon Dorado, a young man living in New Mexico who was deported after being pulled over on his way to school. Dorado is also among those attempting to cross into the United States today.
"We're hopeful to see these members of our community back," Piper says. "They're people we know and love and have missed."
Watch Dorado's video below.
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More from our Immigration archive: "Photos: Immigration activists deliver valentines to ICE detainees."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at email@example.com