A project of the Center for Community Change

Baby Tomasa is reunited with her family!

Is that the same baby girl? You’ve probably seen Baby Tomasa’s face on posters and in news articles, as the scared little girl who lost her fathe rin the New Bedford Raids in MA. Well that sad face is no more- Tomasa has been reunited with her father! -Here is the story:

June 06, 2007 6:00 AM
PETER PEREIRA / The Standard-TimesHector Mendez, 33, spent the past three months in prison after being seized by federal immigration agents during a raid at the Michael Bianco factory, where he sewed military equipment for U.S. troops.

Monday night, the illegal immigrant from Guatemala returned to his wife and three children, who live in a tidy New Bedford apartment.

“I felt relief in my heart,” said Mr. Mendez, who spoke to a Standard-Times reporter Tuesday through an interpreter.

The March 6 Bianco raid, which netted 361 illegal workers, has been used by both sides of the national debate over immigration reform. Opponents of illegal immigration say the raid shows the need for a crackdown on illegal workers and the employers who hire them. Immigrant-rights activists, meanwhile, say the raid highlights the importance of creating a legal path to citizenship for foreign workers.

A photograph of a tearful Tomasa, snapped by Standard-Times photographer Peter Pereira a day after the raid, has been made into posters and waved by marchers at pro-immigrant rallies from Denver to New York.

Immigration attorney John Garan said he submitted a copy of the photo and the article to a Boston judge as part of the evidence in support of Mr. Mendez’s release from a Plymouth County jail.

“To what extent the judge took it into consideration, I don’t know,” Mr. Garan said.

His client was released from detention Monday after posting $5,000 bail — half of the money was loaned by a family member and the other half by a Boston agency.

Mr. Mendez arrived in the Plymouth jail May 8 after spending two months at a federal detention facility in El Paso, Texas.

He described tedious days in El Paso, where he shared a large room with about 50 other Bianco workers, ate unsavory meals and made frequent calls home using a calling card paid for with money sent by his wife, Dominga.

Freshly showered and dressed in a navy blue golf shirt and jeans, Mr. Mendez cuddled on the couch with a grinning Tomasa Tuesday as he spoke of his detainment.

When the conversation turned toward finances and the future, his newfound joy melted into grief.

“We have no money to pay bills,” said Mr. Mendez, who is barred from seeking employment while he awaits his September deportation hearing in Boston. He worked at Michael Bianco for more than a year.

Dominga frowned while pointing to a letter from NStar, warning that the gas in their apartment will be shut off this month if the bill goes unpaid.

Returning to Guatemala is not an option, Mr. Mendez said.

“We are poor over there,” he said. “That is why I brought my kids here — so they could go to school and advance.”

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