‘You tore our world apart.’ Families affected by Trump’s immigration policies speak out at DNC

‘You tore our world apart.’ Families affected by Trump’s immigration policies speak out at DNC

Originally Published in the Los Angeles Times

Melissa Gomez - August 19, 2020

Jessica, Silvia and Lucy Sanchez address the Democratic National Convention.

(Democratic National Convention)

“Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart.”

Estela Juarez read her words to President Trump on the third night of the Democratic convention as immigrants lambasted him for his policies that have upended lives of families who fear deportation or separation from their children.

“My dad thought you would protect military families. So he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President,” 11-year-old Estela read from her letter. She believed her mother would be safe from deportation because her father, a Marine, was serving their country.

“Now, my mom is gone, and she’s been taken from us for no reason at all. Every day that passes you deport more moms and dads and take them away from kids like me.”

Another family appeared at the virtual convention to tell of their life in North Carolina. The family is mixed-status — Silvia Sanchez is in the country illegally, her daughter Jessica is a recipient of the Deferred Arrivals for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, and daughter Lucy is a citizen.

“I work to help my community,” Jessica, 25, said, “but ever since Donald Trump was elected, all our fears have returned.”

Silvia brought Jessica, who was born with spina bifida, to the U.S. illegally in 1996, the 49-year-old mother said in a phone interview on Wednesday. Doctors gave the baby weeks to live if she didn’t seek better care, so Silvia left her home in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and crossed the border.

“More than anything, it was to save her life,” said Silvia, who now works in construction with her husband in Charlotte.

Lucy, 28, who was born in Texas, said she plans to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 3.

“I’m going to vote for my mother, my sister and my daughter. I will vote for a future where all of our lives have dignity and respect,” Lucy said.

Silvia said she is confident Biden can create a pathway to citizenship for her and others like her. Although she was nervous about appearing onscreen at the convention for thousands of people to see, she said she felt it was necessary.

“This platform is important so people get to know the 11 million undocumented who are in this country,” she said.

Immigration has been a centerpiece of Trump’s administration and his reelection campaign. Biden and Trump are on nearly opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to immigration, with Trump reshaping U.S. policy by restricting immigration through executive orders.

Immigration activists are quick to denounce the measures his administration has taken to reduce immigration to the U.S., including the more than 400 executive actions he has signed that range in scope from refugee resettlement, the Obama-era DACA program and immigration courts.

Biden’s platform was shaped in part by a primary contest that pushed his campaign to adopt progressive stances. He was also confronted by immigration activists during the primaries, and he later expressed remorse for President Obama’s immigration policies that resulted in the deportation of millions, including families, saying the administration “took too long to get it right.”

Biden has promised to expand protections for immigrants and overturn most of Trump’s policies. He has criticized Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, which separated thousands of families at the border. Biden has said within his first 100 days in office, he would prioritize family reunifications of those separated at the border and reinstate the DACA program, which Jessica and millions of others are hoping will provide security.

He faces a challenge that Obama also faced during his tenure — working with Congress to establish comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

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