Last night was powerful.
Hundreds of people in my town gathered together in advocacy of a woman named Lourdes Salazar Bautista. We pledged to support her, her three children, her wider family, and our wider community.
First, there was a vigil.
Then there was a march.
Lourdes Salazar Bautista faces immanent deportation by August 2.
Lourdes addressed us directly last night. It was one of the most powerful moments of the evening, and it was also heartbreaking. She spoke honestly about the struggles she and her family have faced since 2010.
Lourdes has lived in the United States for the last 20 years, and during most of that time, she’s lived in Ann Arbor. Her three children were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens. In 2010, after dropping off one of her children at school, she was detained by ICE and spent 23 days behind bars. It was terrifying.
ICE then made a ‘trade’ and deported her husband instead. He was sent back to Mexico, and their children lost regular contact with their father. As part of this ‘trade,’ she was granted a Stay of Deportation. Each year, it was renewed along with her work permit. But when she went in for her annual appointment in March, she was told that “this President has different priorities,” and her deportation would now be a priority. She was told that she would have to return to the ICE Field Office on July 19 (today) and present plane tickets back to Mexico. Without intervention, she has to leave the country by August 2. This means her children will have no legal guardianship. As the family considers their options, the children could leave everything and everyone they’ve ever known to move to a country where they’ve never lived, likely, with less opportunity. Or they could continue in the United States without the presence of their mother, while her oldest daughter, a college student at Michigan State University, assumes guardianship.
This is a traumatic set of options.
As we heard Lourdes speak last night, many of us were in tears. I kept longing that people could hear her voice and recognize that she is a mother who loves her children, a worker, a friend, and an advocate for our entire community. In her address, she called us to care for others who are experiencing all kinds of harm, including anti-immigrant sentiment, detainment, and deportation.
Without relationship and proximity to immigrants, so many people in the U.S. have spurred each other on to believe that people like Lourdes should not be here, and that she is even “the wrong kind of person to be here.” This belief is based on an internalized caste system of who gets to matter, who deserves protection, and who deserves opportunity.
Lourdes Salazar Bautista and her children are fellow human beings. We shouldn’t have to remind people of that. But this was so powerfully on display last night.
Last night, this family lit the candles.
At the vigil, we all held the light for them. But they were the ones who passed it to us. They initiated all those lights. I will forever remember that image. I felt remarkably humbled, called, and empowered in the presence of that action.
The fight is not over. For the last few weeks, there has been a large-scale campaign called #LuchaPorLourdes. People are trying to convince Rebecca Adducci in the Detroit ICE Field Office to grant a Stay of Deportation to Lourdes Salazar Bautista. People are calling and emailing. People are talking about this story on social media, along with stories of other families facing similar trials.
If you want to learn more, please visit Lucha Por Lourdes on Facebook.
And please consider joining in advocacy with immigrants wherever you live.