Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Community activism brings new force to immigrant rights

Jessica Acee • Jan 03, 2011

Bernard Pastor was involved in a minor fender bender on November 17 and was arrested immediately for being undocumented and put on the path to deportation.  The 18-year-old Reading High School honor student has lived in the United States since he was 3 years old when his parents left persecution in Guatemala for a better life. A community volunteer, soccer star and homecoming king during high school, Pastor has said repeatedly that he is an American in everything but his birthplace.

Two weeks ago Bernard was released from federal detention and given a 1 year reprieve from deportation after thousands of his classmates and community members wrote letters to congress, held vigils, and marched to their state capital.  Watch the video, Matthew 25: Bernard’s Story (posted above) to see first hand how a community rose up and stopped the deportation of one of its own.

Just a few days after Bernard was released from detention, the Dream Act failed to pass the Senate.  While not surprising, it is a painful reminder that we cannot count on the federal government to reform our broken immigration system.  In fact, despite his sympathetic campaign talk, Obama has deported more people than any other president- over 1,000 people each day.

The New York Times is reporting that Republicans plan on leading “a wave of state measures coming this year aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.  Next week, at least five states plan to begin an unusual coordinated effort to cancel automatic United States citizenship for children born in this country to illegal immigrant parents.”  Now is the time for communities to join together and fight anti-immigrant bigotry like Bernard’s town did.  Citizens across the country are performing daily acts of resistance that include everything from warning communities of a proposed raid to bringing a hot meal to a family waiting for word of a “disappeared” loved one.

We can’t wait for national laws or leadership from the Obama Administration to end the deportations and harassment of immigrants and their families.  We need to create our own acts of resistance in our communities, cities, and states, just like the residents of Reading Ohio did.  The alternative is to be stuck between an inactive and politically selfish government and a hateful anti-immigrant movement.  Neither speaks for us.

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