It’s not all in Texas! Over 600 people gathered at the June 30 Families Belong Together rally in West Chester. They heard, among many other speakers, Dida Gazoli of Kennett Square speak about the separation of a Kennett area family whose father and husband was taken in May by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at his immigration interview for permanent resident status. Jaime Aguilera Valencia now sits in a cell in a federal prison in Philadelphia, awaiting sentencing for re-entering the U.S. from Mexico to care for his American wife and children, who were and are facing urgent medical and financial circumstances.
As the family’s friends and now advocates, Dida Gazoli and her husband created a public group on Facebook for emotional support and the Statement of Communal Support page where community members can use their voice and supporting statements to work against the separation of this family.
Quoting the latter site:
“Jaime was taken into ICE custody on May 9 at his Immigration interview for the I-130 Petition (for “Alien Relative” to establish permanent resident status aka Green Card). According to ICE officials, Jaime was scheduled for deportation on May 14, even though he’d been actively seeking legalization for well over a year. Five days after he was apprehended and incarcerated by ICE, his I-130 Petition was approved by Immigration. Then, on June 5, his immigration attorney’s request for an “emergency stay” was denied. In other words, the same government agency (U.S. Immigration) that approved the first step in legalization, after over a year’s time, abruptly took it away because they do not consider the family’s extreme medical hardship to be an ‘urgent humanitarian reason’ for Jaime to remain with his American wife and children….”
Community Support for Jaime Aguilera Valencia & His Family goes on to show that there is, in fact, urgent humanitarian need based on a dangerous medical condition of Jaime’s wife and 15-year-old daughter. Additionally, the genetic disorder may also affect the couple’s baby to be born in a matter of weeks.
Public figures are often quoted as saying of immigrants, “Let them just get in line and wait for their visa.” Jaime Aguilera Valencia went in for his interview with Immigration officials as part of that process, only to be seized by ICE and separated from a family that needs his support now more than ever. The legalities are complex but a so-called “family reunification” visa generally requires a wait of several years. That process, however, is scheduled to be shut down if current planning in Washington D.C. comes to pass. The Diversity Immigrant Visa program (aka “green card lottery”) is not open to Mexican citizens.
Sofia Soto, Jaime’s oldest daughter, will begin her studies at West Chester University in the fall. She spoke movingly at the Families Belong Together rally about the plight of her father and family (photo from Facebook). She is also one of the local residents quoted last month in a New York Times op-ed by Alfredo Corchado, “The Mexican Revival of Small-Town America.”
As the New York Times article brings out, the success and vibrancy of many towns like Kennett Square today depends on its immigrants… and so does, one might add, the future of our country as a beacon of democracy, human rights, and family values.
photo of the family from Facebook