On Wednesday in Washington, D.C. —a day after President Biden presented new executive orders on immigration— an estimated 100 immigrant rights activists held a press conference at Freedom Plaza, demanding that “that all immigrant families receive freedom, dignity, and respect,” a media release about the event noted.
“Our families have been torn apart, incarcerated, and our very lives put at risk during this pandemic. Our families have suffered enough, now is the time to right these injustices,” the release added.
The release was shared by the following coalition of organizations: CASA, Shut Down Berks Coalition, American Friends Service Committee, Center for Popular Democracy, Church World Service, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Doctors 4 Camp Closures, FIRM, Free Migration Project, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Japanese American Citizens League, Make The Road PA, NAKASEC, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., SEIU 32BJ, Shut Down Berks Interfaith, Sunrise Berks, Sunrise PA, Sunrise D.C., and Tsuru for Solidarity.
According to the press conference and the release, the group is making the following demands from President Biden and Congress:
- End Family Detention. Immediately empty and shut down all family prisons and immediately stop expulsions and deportations of families. Release families to loved ones or sponsors in the United States.
- Reunify families separated by deportation and detention policies under the past administration, including the right to return.
- Push for an expedited citizenship path for essential workers and their families, and all 11 million undocumented immigrants
One of the speakers at the press conference was agricultural worker Paulina Martínez, a CASA Member and a resident of Chester County, PA. Here are Martínez’s remarks that were shared in the release:
I decided to leave my country fleeing from the abuse and violence I suffered from the father of my children and the poverty we were going through, to the point of not having food on our table. I arrived like all immigrants who are parents, who arrive with dreams and goals to create a better future for our families. Upon our arrival, my girls started going to school and I started working from 5 in the morning until 8 at night, in order to support my family.
I remember very clearly that we had recently gotten a place to live and one day in the morning some ICE agents came to our house; some agents surrounded it and others came in abruptly. My daughters were about to leave for school, the officers arrived looking for a person who had lived there before, my daughters screaming and were very scared because they did not understand why the officers had guns and were in our house.
Terrified, my daughters went to school. From that day on they were no longer the same, always living in fear, as if they expected that something was going to happen at any moment. My daughters were small and did not understand any difference between a legal status and much less why the officers had entered their home in this way. My biggest fear as a mother is that more families are going through this same situation that is causing trauma to our children, just for seeking a better life for our loved ones.