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Immigration: "Unification Not Deportation" campaign kicks off tonight with personal stories

Jenny is a mother of three whose husband has cancer. Faced with the decision of whether to renew her car registration or buy food for her family, she says she chose the latter. One night, as she was leaving her job, she was pulled over the by police for having expired tags.

The first question they asked was whether she was in the country legally.

The answer was no, and Jenny was taken to the GEO Aurora Detention Center, where she spent 34 days. The hardest part, she says, was not being able to see her three small children. "The only time I could see them was when I had my court appearance," she says in a statement. "It was so difficult to see them from afar without being able to hold them." Jenny's final immigration hearing is May 25, when a judge will decide whether to deport her or not.

Jenny is a leader with Rights for All People, an immigrants rights group based in Aurora. It's because of stories like hers that the organization is launching a campaign called "Unification Not Deportation." The kickoff is tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, 10100 E. 13th Avenue in Aurora.

"Basically, we are taking a stand against the deportation of people of good standing in the community," says RAP's Nicole Melaku. "ICE has said people in deportation should be dangerous criminals, first. But we're trying to take a stand to show that these are regular moms, dads, uncles and grandmothers that are in deportation."

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Another RAP leader, Gerardo, faces the same fate. A recent graduate of Aurora's Smoky Hill High School, he was pulled over for what Melaku describes as "nothing other than being a young Latino in a certain neighborhood." Having come to this country as a child, he too may be deported. "He knows nothing other than life here in the U.S.," Melaku says. Gerardo's hearing hasn't been set.

"Unification Not Deportation" also aims to call attention to what Melaku describes as "the big business of deportation." In 2010, she says, The GEO Group, Inc., which owns the detention center in Aurora and many others worldwide, made $1.27 billion. RAP, she says, wants to see "an end to the splitting up of families for profit."

"I don't think the majority of the public is aware of how big this problem is and who it really affects," Melaku says. "We're trying to draw light on that and tell personal stories."

More from our Immigration archives: "Colorado immigration partnership with feds wrongly focusing on non-criminals, study says."

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