Millions of families across the US will come together to celebrate Father’s Day this upcoming weekend. But for many immigrant families, the day will instead serve as one of sadness.
Sunday will be Pastor Max Villatoro’s second Father’s Day away from his four kids. He was deported to Honduras last year after living in Iowa for two decades. For Brigido Acosta Luis, this will be his third Father’s Day separated from his two kids. He was deported to Mexico in 2013.
Both men were torn from their children, families, and homes despite huge community outcry. While both families have done their best to try to stay connected through Skype chats and phone calls, it doesn’t come close to the loving embraces these kids deserve with their dads.
During last year’s Father’s Day, we talked to both men about spending this holiday alone. It’s painful to read, but it must be revisited as Republicans still block immigration reform efforts, and the fate of DAPA — which could spare millions of other dads and families from the pain of deportation — remains up in the air:
During the chat, Pastor Max and his son Anthony, as well as Brigido and his wife Maria gave a firsthand account of life after deportation and discussed their hopes and dreams for the future.
Joining the call from Honduras, Pastor Max Villatoro said, “I have to come back… I’m going to keep fighting…They took my life away, and if there is somebody there that has feelings, that has kids, or they’re married, please help me. I know that the law says one thing, but what about your feelings? We are human beings… That is the question I ask myself, is somebody there in authority that could do something about it? I know there is somebody there… I know you have to respect the law. But you have to make an exception and go through those cases better and say what’s going on with these people. Can we do something about it? I feel that I am from there [the United States]. I gave all these years to the USA. And I feel like I’m a good citizen and I deserve a better chance.”
Added Anthony Villatoro, 15, “[After his father’s deportation] life was dramatically changed for us four [children]… For my little sisters it’s been very hard, especially for the youngest one. It was very hard for her to understand what was happening, what was going on… For me, I was just really shocked. I didn’t know what to do or what was going to happen. Ever since the deportation, we’ve all been going to therapy at least once a week… We need to tell people how this is affecting us, how this has changed our lives dramatically… We should fight it. We shouldn’t just let this pass by like nothing happened. We need to stand up for what is wrong and tell them that this is wrong.”
Said Maria Perez, a U.S. citizen and wife of Brigido Acosta Luis,“I want people to understand it’s not just the person being deported who is punished, it’s the families, the children, the wife who is expected to continue on her life, pay all the bills, take the kids to school, and keep working. We just have to keep working to change the laws, to make people realize. People don’t realize that even U.S. citizen wives, children, cannot bring back their husbands that easily. We have to keep fighting to change the laws.”
Speaking about the upcoming holiday of Father’s Day, Brigido added, “I’m going to be honest with you. I told my wife and kids that for me, there are no holidays until I’m with them. I’m saving all of them and then when we’re together we’re going to celebrate everything.”
But, we also want Brigido, Pastor Max, and the millions of other undocumented dads know that we continue to fight for them and their families every day so they never have to experience this kind of pain again.
In his moving Father’s Day piece from last year, AV’s Juan Escalante paid tribute to his undocumented dad and others, writing “there is a whole community standing behind them”:
Every day that I think about my father, I try to remind myself of how hard he works. Of how quiet he remains, of how much he has persevered in the face of adversity. My father, the undocumented immigrant, who many would rather see him deported, is quietly working at his shop as I write this letter—hoping and praying that one day he will not have to look over his shoulder, that one day he will be able drive to work in peace, that one day he will be able to return to the country that he left behind so many years ago.
As we celebrate Father’s Day today, I want my dad, and undocumented parents everywhere, to know that there is a whole community standing behind them. We are working hard and diligently to ensure that you remain close to the ones you sacrificed so much for.
Dad, I know that I do not call you as much as I probably should. I know that I took the easy way out and wrote this English, instead of Spanish, and that you will probably need to have this letter translated to you. Despite both of these things, I just want you to know how proud I am of you.
At no point have you stopped trying, working or inventing new ways to keep our family afloat. Despite of where you find yourself today, you still manage to make the best out of any situation. My only hopes are that I am able to validate all of your efforts, so that the countless nights you have spent worrying about whether you made the right choice in coming to a country that has kept you in fear for so long are all worthwhile. That is one.
The other is to try apply everything you have taught me. To never give up, to always find a new way, to be kind, caring, and compassionate to others. To be strong.
I know things are still not “ok.” That once again you have to wait to be recognized as a contributing member of society. But I assure that I am working hard to make sure that the day comes when you no longer have to live in fear. That, I can promise you.