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'I Called on Obama to Remember My Face This Thanksgiving, When He's With His Family and I'm Not'

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A few weeks ago, we first heard the story of Brigido, a father of two who was in detention and awaiting deportation.  Even though thousands of petitions were signed and phone calls were made, even though Chicago activists this week chained themselves to his bus to try and prevent it from leaving, Brigido was deported on Tuesday.

On a press call today, Brigido’s wife, Maria, told her powerful story and called on Congress and President Obama to take action and stop the separation of families like hers.  We transcribed Maria’s statement below.

To listen to Maria’s story, click here.  Her segment begins at [22:05]

My name is Maria Perez, and I always believed Obama when he said that he’s not going to separate families, especially if the immigrants were not criminals. But my husband, Brigido, was deported last Tuesday, on November 19th. When he was first detained, I thought that it would be a fight, but it would be a fight that we could fight together, that he’d get out and he’d be with us. But as the days went by, I found out that I was wrong. There was no bond set, and lawyer after lawyer told me there was nothing I could do but pray that he was deported quickly.

He had a prior deportation order from 2002, even though in that incident he had a valid tourist visa. He did not come into the country, he was interrogated at the airport and bullied into signing a deportation order. He used his own ticket to go back to Mexico, but they count that as a deportation. And so when they found him in 2013, all they had to do was reinstate that prior order of deportation. He’s never gone before a judge, he’s never had a hearing, they just deported him.

I need my husband, and his 3-year old son and 13-year old daughter need their father. The father’s role in a child’s life is so important, I’m just picturing my son not being able to go to soccer games or anything with his father. My children cry every day for their father. We will not have Thanksgiving with him, we will not have Christmas with him, my son won’t celebrate his birthday with him.

But I couldn’t just take no for an answer, I couldn’t just sit by and watch him be deported. So, I called everyone I knew to see if they knew anybody that could help me, and I finally got in touch with America’s Voice and Markos Moulitsas…Petitions were put up online, calls were made to Congressman Gutierrez’s office, anything that I thought could help keep my husband in the United States so that we could be a family. But his two stays of deportation were denied by ICE, and he was scheduled to be deported on the 19th. As a last attempt, OCAD was planning on stopping the bus that was taking the deportees to the airport, so I signed on.

It was amazing, to say the least. I spoke at a press conference first, then we headed to the detention center. Six of the relatives chained themselves together in front of the bus, and six of them actually chained themselves around the wheels of the bus. One of the relatives actually held up a sign for the bus driver that said, “stop, there are people under your bus.” But the driver actually kept going for a little bit, he was inches from running over one of the young women who was under the bus. We chanted, we yelled, we tried everything, we actually got to talk to the people on the bus through bullhorns, and through tears I just told my husband that I loved him and I wasn’t going to stop fighting, that I was going to bring him back, that I needed him back with me, that I was going to fight to get that deportation order withdrawn.

But I also called on Obama, and I called on Obama to stop playing politics, to actually do something. That not one more person should be deported, until an immigration reform bill is passed. I called on Obama to look on my face and remember my face this Thanksgiving, when he’s with his family and I’m not.

We were about 75 people, students, relatives, trying to stop the bus, and they actually called on four SWAT teams from different suburbs to try and quell us. We had no weapons, we had nothing but cardboard signs, but they called SWAT teams in. The people under the bus and in front of the bus were cut out of their makeshift chains. The bus rolled back, and the deportees were taken to the airport.

That night, when I spoke to my husband from Mexico, he told me that they could see us, but they could not hear us. The officers on the bus actually blasted the air conditioning, and you have to keep in mind that we’re in Chicago. It was about 32 degrees outside, and they blasted the air conditioning. A lot of them didn’t have jackets or sweaters, they were just in t-shirts. So they could see us, but they could not hear us. They did start hitting the windows, kicking the bus, they thought of maybe tipping the bus over but then realized that would probably crush somebody that was under the bus. And one of the officers actually told my husband to sit down. And my husband asked him why–“what are you going to do to me? Are you going to put me in jail? Because that’s where I’m coming from. Are you going to deport me? Well, isn’t that what you’re doing anyway? What are you going to do to me NOW?” And the officer couldn’t say anything.

There is nothing more you could do to this man. You’re taking his family away. You’re taking his life away.

But the bus rolled back and he was deported. He told me that they were chained, hand and foot from the minute they got onto that bus until they got to Mexico. His wrists are all cut up. On the plane, they would give them a little bag of food, but if they wanted to eat it, they actually had to bring to their knees, because the chain wasn’t long enough. And drinking water, they just had to get creative, and bite on the bottle of water and tip it back because you couldn’t use your hands, the chain wasn’t long enough. ICE officers didn’t care; he told them the handcuffs were too tight, and they said they were fine. So you’re talking about over seven hours, being chained up, like animals. They treat them like animals, like they’re real criminals, when all they’ve done is cross a border. And yes, I understand that it’s against the law. But they weren’t doing anything wrong.

So at this moment I call not just on the House to vote on immigration reform, but I also call on Obama to stop the deportations. Not one more person should be deported until at least a vote is taken. No other family should have to go through this. Thank you.