I originally came to the U.S. in 2000 because of the unstable situation in my own country, circumstances that leave too many with nothing, not even something to eat, and knowing that the U.S. is a country that has opportunities for those who want to provide better lives for their families.
I migrated to live with my brother and his three children in Georgia. For eight years we lived peacefully until one day one of my nephews gave a ride to his sister to take her to school, only to find themselves caught in a checkpoint. He was detained for not having a license and, because we live in a county with the 287(g) program, he was deported.
Ever since he was taken from our home, everything began to change. It’s as if we weren’t the same family any more. My brother and sister-in-law began to have problems. She blamed him for not being there to take the kids to school like he usually did.
I know that what happened to them is not uncommon because when I share the story with others, they have countless similar stories as well.
Each deportation that happens is another family separated. And the only person that has the power to solve that, to put a stop to it immediately, is President Barack Obama.
In Congress the politicians are working toward immigration reform but it still remains a possibility, something that could come to be. Meanwhile what is real and concrete in our daily lives is the 1,100 people who are being deported every single day.
That’s why I decided that I had to risk even my own liberty to be heard through our actions. We were arrested so that the voice of millions of undocumented people in my same position can finally be heard. And so that people listen to more than the heads of large organizations but also to the reality that we live on a daily basis; the persecution by the police and the fear to leave one's house and think that one might not make it home to see one’s kids that night.
We have traveled all the routes available to us. We have lobbied in D.C. and Georgia. We’ve visited senators and representatives, police chiefs and councilmen, to ask for reform and a stop to deportations. We’ve marched and rallied and up until now it feels, at times, like it could have been in vain if our cry is not listened to.
I know that we’re taking a great risk but I firmly believe that it is this type of action that is able to create real change.
Immigrant youth have carried out a mountain of similar actions and ultimately won, at the least, administrative relief in the form of DACA. Following that example, I believe that if we unite all our energies in marches and rallies, letters and lobbying, as well as direct action like our’s, we can achieve our goal: first to stop the deportations and then to win a real immigration reform that is both just and comprehensive.
The president has made a commitment, a moral one, that he needs to keep with our community. It’s common knowledge that his reelection was based on the Latino vote and that he made a promise in his first term to pass immigration reform. Instead of that, he broke the record for the most deportations in history. From today forward, he will have to decide how he will be judged by history. Will he be remembered as the president to set records for deportations without even helping the broader immigrant community or the president who provided thousands of families with real relief by stopping the deportations?
Stopping deportations will be the only way to correct at least a little of the damage caused under his administration. And if Congress is more preoccupied with the future of their careers than the future of our lives, the president can push both parties to act; one who refuses to support reform and his own that doesn’t do enough to see its passage. It would be to say that if they are not capable of arriving at an agreement, he can do it himself. For that reason, we tell the president: not one more deportation.
Martinez is a member of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights..