During their week in DC, the children had the opportunity to interact with three women who took part in the 1963 Children's Crusade march in Birmingham, Alabama. These women shared their personal stories, explained why they decided to participate in the march and took questions from the children. They told the children that the immigration reform movement is the civil rights movement of our time, and the children were delighted to learn that they could call themselves civil rights activists. It was incredible to see the parallel drawn between the 1960s and today and to observe how eager the children were to gain insight from the Civil Rights veterans.
Early last Wednesday morning Carmen and Jennifer, two teenage girls who traveled to DC for the youth event, sought out Speaker John Boehner at a diner on the Hill. The girls shared their stories with Boehner and told him how their families have been impacted by deportations or the fear thereof. Carmen's father was detained for three months and he is now awaiting the court date for his deportation proceeding scheduled for May 2015. Both of Jenni's parents are undocumented, but she is a U.S. citizen, so she lives with the fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers could come and take them away from her. You can view the video of Carmen and Jenni speaking to Boehner by clicking here.
Pictured above are Josue, Leslie, and Ariana. Josue is five years old and lives in Massachusetts, and Leslie and Ariana are sisters who came from New York. All three of them have witnessed ICE officers storming in their home and taking away a family member. In Josue's case, it was his uncle; for Leslie and Ariana, it was their father. The girls currently live with their mother, but they do not know when they will be able to see their father again. Until I heard these children tell their stories, I would have never imagined the tragedy caused by our current immigration system. As I listened to the children and teens talk about how our country's immigration policy has disrupted their families and their lives, I came to realize how much I had taken for granted. Growing up I never had to live with the fear that I might be separated from my parents, but many of the children who participated in the event have to live with that fear on a daily basis. More than anything, the children demonstrated that immigration reform is not just political, but personal.