“I have a deportation order, and I don’t want to be separated from my family. That is why I’m here,” said Irasema Zapata, a wife and mother of three U.S. citizen children from Guatemala. Irasema was speaking at a rally and press conference on March 20th to launch the Massachusetts Trust Act.
I first met Irasema just a few days after she and her husband were pulled over by the police. Her husband was arrested for driving without a license, even though he has a valid Washington State license, and they were both put into deportation proceedings. We met when she was speaking at a UU Mass Action event about the Massachusetts Trust Act, telling her story for the first time.
Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) says that their so-called Secure Communities program is about deporting hardened criminals. However, their own statistics tell a very different story. In Massachusetts, 60% of those who are deported are like Irasema and her husband. They have committed no crime and are getting deported for things like minor traffic violations.
We must help stop these deportations! Thirty people, including 15 members of North Parish in North Andover, went with Irasema to a deportation hearing and slowed the process down. North Parish then collected over 100 post cards and brought them to the March 20th rally and press conference at the Massachusetts State House to deliver a message to their legislators. The message? We need to stop deporting hard working immigrants and breaking up their families by passing the Massachusetts Trust Act.
UU Mass Action is playing a leading role in organizing the interfaith community around the Massachusetts Trust Act. Throughout April and May, we are organizing a series of actions statewide along with our partners in the labor and immigrant rights community. These actions include our annual Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Day where we will bring over 100 UUs to the State House to demand passage of the Trust Act. We will gain inspiration from our featured speaker, Sister Simone Campbell of Network, who organized the Nuns on the Bus tour in opposition to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.
If you live in Massachusetts, please join us in the Massachusetts Trust Act Campaign. Trust Act campaigns are gaining momentum in states across the country, including California and Connecticut. You can also learn how to bring the Restoring Trust Campaign to your local community at the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website.
Together, we can stand on the side of love with immigrant families to help stop the deportation of community members like Irasema.
This post was written by Jesse Jaeger, Executive Director of UU Mass Action.