BY DANNY GONZALEZ
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an organization that defines its efforts to “protect civil, labor, and human rights,” stated the number of deportations within the Obama administration would reach 2 million on April 5. How ironic the scheduled nationwide protest against deportation and for human rights for all immigrants took place on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Newark in front of the Hall of Records.
In the six years of President Barack Obama’s administration, more than 1,000 people are deported daily, more than any other U.S. president before him, according to the website of the NDLON. In his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama attributed “serious economic growth” to fixing the “broken immigration system.” Citing independent economists’ research, Obama stated “Immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost 1 trillion dollars in the next two decades.”
In response to the inaction of the president, NDLON mobilized a national protest in more than 80 cities in approximately 30 states, including Puerto Rico, using the website notonemoredeportation.com. Under the banner of #NotOneMore, the protest landed on the steps of the Hall of Records, one block from Essex County College, with police presence. Desperate families and friends presented the public with their narratives, pleading with the president to reform immigration laws.
A young mother clutching her baby in her arms spoke to the crowd how she and her brothers were suffering emotionally without the presence of their father, who was jailed and classified as a “high-priority” deportation without having a criminal record. Both of her younger brothers no longer visit their father because of the humiliation they feel when they have to strip off their articles of clothing at security checkpoints; her youngest doesn’t talk to strangers out of fear he might be taken away as they did to his father. The dad, proud to be a grandfather for the first time, had to meet his granddaughter while he was in shackles.
Josue Lora, a student from Rutgers University, said he was struggling to pay for his classes out of pocket. He was denied financial aid because his mother is undocumented.
“My first semester was pretty bad; I didn’t do as good as I should have because I was stressed,” Lora said. “Every day on my commute I would read letters of telling me if I didn’t pay them by a certain day, my class would be dropped, every morning on the train just thinking, “how am I going to pay for this?”
Lora said to resolve his problem, he had to declare himself as independent and take out a loan under his name, something he advises other students with undocumented parents to do. Likewise, Lora insisted he wants to help his mother attain papers to make it easier for his sisters to go to school with financial aid.
In his time at the microphone, Lora communicated his difficulties through rap when his speech failed him. Local artists like the Peace Poets, a collective of rappers, lyricists and poets from the Bronx, came in support of the protest with recitations of poems centered around anguish, frustration and peace.
Enmanuel Candelario, a member of the Peace Poets, performed a poem titled “Lucero,” dedicated to the memory of Marcelo Lucero, an undocumented immigrant from Long Island, who was killed in a gang attack as part of a hate crime. Candelario said he wanted to give the story respect and justice Lucero deserved and to honor his legacy. Coincidentally or not, during the protest, three people arrived with the intention to disrupt the energy with ideologies that opened tender wounds in the minds of protesters.
“I firmly believe in trying to avoid violence as best as possible. Unfortunately, there are situations that happen,” Candelario lamented. “In this particular incident, I don’t think we should lower ourselves to their level. They were just three people, and we’re a mass of people. We’re here not for them; we’re here for us and for our family members. I think we should always carry that at the forefront of our minds, and we gotta be the ones to keep our roots intact.”
The event was planned by various civil rights groups such as Action 21, United With Dreams, Pico, American Friends and Winds of the Spirit. Jorge Torres, a representative from Unidad Latino en Acción and the emcee of the event, defined the protest as an equal effort from each organization.
“Today we are working together with the communities to stop deportations,” Torres said. “We are working with different organizations where we want to bring attention to individual cases as well as participating and working together.”
The months of May and June are approaching with holidays where children honor their mothers and fathers. One family at the event, the Alvarados, was at risk of losing this privilege. The mother and son spoke about the planned deportation of their father Monday, April 7 and also the pursuit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the mother.
The wife of the jailed man recounted how three weeks ago her husband was captured and under order of deportation for the second time; the first occurred three years ago when he was denied a working permit after 17 years of owning one legally. Since the time he was first deported, his family of four had no manner to pay for their bills. The mother could not work, so they moved from house to house. Eventually her husband had to return to sustain his family since he could not do so from across the Mexican border.
In tears, the mother spoke before a group of more than 50 people on how ICE could treat her husband as a criminal when the only crime he had committed was “working hard to bring bread to the table every day for his children and give them an education.”
The mother admitted she was scared to return to her home country with her family; the same day they received notice of her husband’s deportation, the family lost one of their cousins in Guatemala in a violent attack. She exclaimed she was determined to keep her children’s future within the United States, but she needed the help of the community to reach Obama.