Fury, tears over deferred action at Tucson immigration forum
For a moment, conflicting stances of the U.S. immigration system nearly overwhelmed an immigration forum held at Pima Community College on Friday night.
Held at the PCC's Proscenium Theatre, the forum began with 10-year old Bob de la Rosa, who described to the audience the night his mother was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol and subsequently deported.
"I was in the back seat with my sock monkey, not knowing my life, and the life of my brother and sister would become a nightmare," de la Rosa said.
He said that while his mother remained in Mexico, he and his siblings stayed in the United States to get a good education. However, the family has struggled in recent months as his elderly father has been seriously ill, forcing his brother to leave the U.S. Marine Corps to help care for the family.
"Without my mother, my sister who is 14 has to do much of the cooking, the cleaning and the scolding when I am not in bed by 10,” he said.
Fighting back tears, the boy said he worried about what would happen to him if his father "passed away" and asked the audience to remember something his told him, "Don't give up. Please."
De la Rosa was followed by Gerardo Grijalva Jr., the eldest son of Rosa Robles Loreto — who has been in sanctuary at a Tucson church for nine months after her deportation order expired in August 2014.
Grijalva called himself a "Dreamer" and was ready to file the application to receive deferred action through an expanded version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals announced by President Barack Obama in a November speech. However, that program has been stymied by a federal judge in Texas who issued a last-minute injunction in February.
"I am 12 years old. I am a sixth grader in middle school. And most importantly, I am a Dreamer," said Grijalva, who spoke wearing his baseball jersey.
He said that he and his father couldn't attend some games in Southern Arizona because that would mean crossing through a Border Patrol checkpoint, and without legal status both could be detained. Meanwhile, his mother continues to miss games as she waits for immigration officials to give her a legal stay.
The boy was followed by Edna Osuna, 27, who explained how DACA has allowed her to pursue her dreams to work as a financial analyst and a college education despite serious financial hurdles, including a $16,000 bill for a semester at the University of Arizona.
Then the congressman took the stage. As he spoke, the mutterings of a few hecklers echoed through the theatre. One man called the deferred action program "an illegal order."
"I’m going to self-deport because this is garbage," he said as he walked out of the forum, soon followed by more than dozen people, including a group from Phoenix who had come to protest the event.
Moments later Del Dawley, 56, rose from the audience and began to speak but was drowned out by the crowd who chanted "Si Se Puede" or "Yes, we can."
Dawley complained that Grijalva dishonored the flag and was a traitor.
Grijalva asked him to give him common courtesy, but Dawley responded "You have to give it me."
Officers from Pima Community College's police asked Dawley to leave and he was escorted out.
Later Dawley said that "most citizens do not want illegal immigration in the country."
"We would support them if they came here legally, but illegals don't respect our rules of law," said Dawley. "I have no sympathy for them and I don't think that the federal government should be sympathetic either," he said.
The event continued with lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who answered questions from audience members about the state of the deferred action programs.
In November, Obama's executive action appeared to put a crack in the case against Rosa Imelda Robles Loreto, who has had an order of removal against her since August 2014. However, with the delay of the programs she has remained in the south Tucson church for nine months, awaiting some guarantee by immigration officials that she will not be deported once she leaves the church's grounds.
On Friday afternoon, Grijalva and Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez visited her at Southside Presbyterian Church.
While immigration officials have continuously assured both Robles Loreto that she will not be taken into custody, her lawyer Margo Cowan has advised her to remain in sanctuary until a formal order, stay or other document in produced.
This need became especially clear to Cowan as yesterday, immigration agents went to a south Tucson grocery store and arrested one of her clients, deporting her back to Mexico within a few hours.
Grijalva said that he has spoken to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and while they assured Grijalva that she will not be deported there are "too many examples where trusting and not verifying have not worked for people."
"Let's do whatever we need, so she return home with whatever protection is available," Grijalva said. "In the interim for her to be constantly in a position where she's at risk is not a way to live."
Grijalva said it was frustrating and the current system of prosecutorial discretion is "not working."
"Every ICE agent must carry a card that explains prosecutorial priorities, so it's clear what those priorities are," Gutierrez said. However, he said there's a problem between the outlines of discretion and the President's orders. At the moment of applying for a work permit, an formal order of deportation should be rescinded, he said but "therein lies the rub."