Becca Tabor/ Union County Progressives/Democrats

I magine yourself in a crowd outside a courthouse. It’s cold out, but the sun is shining. You look at the building and are in awe of how big the pillars are, making you realize once again this is an important place. Around you, about 30 people are gathered waving posters in the air, weeping and chanting. You’re 7 years old and holding a sign that reads, “Save my daddy.” Beside you, a boy, not yet 5, wears a shirt that says, “Stop deportations” on the front and “Free my dad” on the back.

It’s a situation most of us likely find hard to insert ourselves into, never having had the fear of our father being detained and deported.

And yet, not even a year ago I stood outside a courthouse and saw a young girl holding that sign and a little boy wearing that shirt. I cannot accurately place myself in either of their shoes, but the scene is burned into my mind.

We were gathered to protest the deportation hearings of these children’s fathers. Today, nine months later, their dads are still detained, awaiting potential deportations to Iraq.

Cynics may think I have painted a nice sob story or perhaps write it off as a “one-off.” But it is important these stories are told and that their frequency is known. I know firsthand this was not a one-off, because less than six weeks later, I stood at the airport with other community members as Lourdes Salazar, having spent the last 20 years living in the U.S., was forced to board a plane to Mexico. Her three children — U.S. citizens — were there too, unsure of what the future will hold.

I could now turn to statistics and attempt to refute anti-immigrant falsehoods such as “They’re taking all of our jobs” or “Immigrants don’t pay taxes.” These statements do not reflect reality, but I want to hold space for one more story.

In January, Syed A. Jamal, a Bangladeshi-American who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, was handcuffed and detained by ICE as he left his home to drive his daughter to school. Jamal, a chemistry
professor and father to three U.S. citizens, now sits behind bars awaiting potential deportation to Bangladesh — a nation he has not called home for the majority of his life.

Lourdes Salazar. Syed A. Jamal. These names have become public as reporters have told their stories and communities have rallied for their ability to stay in the U.S. I repeat their names here, as it is important we do not forget our neighbors torn from our communities. Salazar was deported. Jamal is still awaiting a final hearing. This is the reality of the current U.S. immigration system. It tears families apart and scars communities. It is ugly.

So again, I’ll ask you to imagine yourself in the crowd in front of a courthouse. This time, you are yourself, and know from the get-go a deportation hearing is occurring inside.

Will you react with hatred and fear? Or will you acknowledge the dignity and worth of all human beings? I hope, collectively, that when faced with the decision — whether in conversations with our friends or through ballots cast — we choose the latter. That we act with compassion and a deep understanding of our nation’s history and extend our support for immigrants nationwide.

A clean Dream Act with relation to DACA is a crucial step toward a more humane, compassionate United States of America. I urge readers to reach out to your representatives and convey your support for DACA. Additionally, we must recognize the need to go further with progressive immigration legislation and create a society in which a child never again has to wear a shirt reading, “Stop deportations // Free my dad.”