Fear of Losing Parents Prompts Kids to Act
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WASHINGTON – Today, seven children were arrested outside the U.S. Capitol as they peacefully advocated for immigration reform. The constant fear of losing their parents to deportations prompted them to engage in civil disobedience that led to their arrests. Eighteen adults, including parents and immigrant rights advocates, were also arrested today.
“We stand in solidarity with these brave youths for their deep commitment to an issue that deeply affects them and their families,” said Kica Matos, spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM). They know firsthand just how much our current broken immigration system has wreaked havoc on millions of people. These young people have expressed a readiness and desire to continue their advocacy that includes acts of civil disobedience. They have become leaders in the movement because they want to stop the growing crisis in their communities that senseless and rampant deportations have caused.”
“We are humbled by their bravery, awed by the depth of their commitment to their families and fired up by their actions,” Matos said. “Yet we remain angry that the majority of Congress has allowed a few narrow-minded members to stall immigration reform.”
Brian Sanchez, 13, of Arizona, is a U.S. citizen but his mother is not, and she has not been able to see her daughters in Mexico.
“I got back to Mexico every year to see my sisters but because of my mom’s status, she cannot and she has not seen my sisters in 10 years,” Brian said. “It is terrifying to think that my mom could be deported at any time and I would be all alone.”
Kolby Bautista Lopez, 13, of Colorado, said both his parents have deportation orders. Kolby is a U.S. citizen.
“I don’t know what will happen if my parents are deported,” Kolby said. “I’m scared, but I never cry, especially in front of my three younger brothers. Immigration reform would help my parents and many other immigrants stay in this country without having to worry about being deported.”
The youths were arrested by Metropolitan Police Department officers, but were not charged and were released to their parents or guardians shortly after the action. The adults were arrested by Capitol Police and released after posting a $50 citation fee for trespassing.
The brave youths who took part in today’s civil disobedience are the latest examples of immigrant youths calling for comprehensive immigration reform. Last year, more than 100 children came to Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of themselves and their families with many participating in rallies and peaceful actions in Washington and in their home states. Several children last year brought national attention to the need for immigration reform, including the two teen girls who confronted Speaker John Boehner at Pete’s Diner on why he was allowing members of the Republican Party to stall immigration reform.
In December when children were back on the Hill they gained strength and knowledge from adults who had participated in the 1963 Children’s Crusade during the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama. The Children’s Crusade was a pivotal moment in the fight for civil rights – it has brought the moral crisis front and center to living rooms across America. At the December meeting, Gwendolyn Gamble, who took part in the 1963 Children’s Crusade, told the kids that even though she was forced to sit in the back of the bus because she was black, had substandard textbooks at school and was called derogatory names, it never broke her spirit.
“All those things did not discourage me. That made me decide to join the movement, I was inspired,” Gamble said.
The children who are here today are following in the brave footsteps of people like Gamble, and they hope to inspire more youths to use their voices to gain comprehensive immigration reform.
Ten youth leaders, including the seven minors, traveled to Washington from all across the country and are part of FIRM, the nation’s largest immigrant-rights coalition. Their names are:
Yahir Ambrosio, 11, of Alabama
Kolby Bautista Lopez, 13, of Colorado
Brian Sanchez, 13, of Arizona
Indhira Carrillo Gaytán, 14, of Colorado
Arlyne Hernandez Cruz, 14, of California
Elias Gonzales, 15, of Nevada
Talia Caridad Gonzalez, 17, of Nevada
Yuridia A Loera Ramirez, 18, of New Mexico
Kimberly L Aleman Santos, 19, of Washington State
Vanely Salinas Talamantes, 21, of New Mexico
In addition, the following family members, leaders, and advocates were present at the civil disobedience, with some being arrested:
Ana Garcia Ashley, Executive Director, Gamaliel
Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
Ronald Collins, Chief of Staff, Communications Workers of America
Petra Falcon, Executive Director, Promise Arizona in Action
Ben Jealous, Former President and Chief Executive Officer, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) NOT ARRESTED
Kica Matos, FIRM Spokesperson
Jes Rooks, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF); We Belong Together member
DJ Yoon, Executive Director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
From the Alliance for Citizenship:
Sue Chinn, Campaign Director
Heather Booth, Strategic Adviser
Three relatives of the children participated:
Azucena Ambrosio, Jorge Ambrosio’s aunt
Ivon Meneses, mother of Elias Gonzales
Josefina Estrella, mother of Arlyne Hernandez Cruz
Here are additional quotes from immigrant rights advocates:
Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. In this instance, Speaker Boehner is the problem. His intransigence on fixing our broken immigration system is inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on millions of vulnerable undocumented immigrants and their families. He must act now and do the right thing for these 11 million immigrants, over a quarter of a million of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Immigrants and their families need a real pathway to citizenship, not unnecessary political gridlock. All they want is to be able to fulfill the promise of America and access the American Dream.”
Petra Falcon, Executive Director, Promise Arizona in Action: “I am proud to stand in solidarity with the brave young people who risked arrest to speak up for what they firmly believe in: fair and compassionate immigration laws that will allow families to stay together as they work to become citizens of the country they call home. I have been amazed at the conviction of these children and young adults for this very critical issue that affects millions of people. They have shown they are the new leaders of civil and human rights. These youths show that the continued inaction of Congress will not be tolerated.”
Heather Booth, Strategic Adviser, Alliance for Citizenship: “I believe all people should be treated with dignity and respect. I was active in the movement for civil rights 50 years ago. I saw that if we organize we can change the world and move toward a more just world. Now we are in another struggle for civil rights, dignity and respect. We are struggling for a permanent legislative solution so that people can live without fear and come out of the shadows of the society, so that children are not separated from their parents or parents from their grandchildren because of deportation, and so that we live up to our values as One Nation, with Liberty and Justice for ALL.”