Sept. 29, 2006, was a day Héctor De León will never forget. That is the day he says immigration officials showed up to his Phoenix home with bulletproof vests and guns and arrested his wife, Silvia Carpeo.
Carpeo, who entered the country illegally, was sent to Florence to await deportation to Guatemala.
De León said they were only a year or two away from receiving green cards and he doesn’t understand why they want to deport her.
De León shared his story Thursday at a news conference at the Faith Lutheran Church in Phoenix.
He, as well as religious and immigration advocacy groups, are asking President Bush for a temporary moratorium on all detentions, deportations and workplace raids until stronger immigration reforms are enacted.
The speakers included Mesa activist and evangelical pastor Magdalena Schwartz and Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix. They said a moratorium is needed to prevent the separation of American children from their immigrant parents.
“There are mothers being detained in Florence. There are fathers being detained,” Schwartz said in Spanish. “We are here to ask President Bush to have mercy. It’s time that we show compassion for our brothers.”
Schwartz said the group plans to send the president a letter outlining its request. It would be part of a national movement by interfaith and immigration advocacy organizations urging the president to take action, Schwartz said.
Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, said he appreciates the groups’ concerns about how deportations are affecting families, but the legislator said he doubts the letters to the president will have an effect.
“If you look at it from strictly a humanitarian point of view, there is certainly a valid (point) to say maybe we should stop,” he said. “But it’s not realistic because it’s a bigger issue than just that.”
He said it could take Congress another 10 years to enact any meaningful reform of immigration law. “In the meantime, you have 10 years of a free pass to live here,” he said.
Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would not comment on the feasibility of a moratorium on deportations. She said she was unaware of any such moratorium in the country’s history. She said she understands the difficulties families endure with deportation, but she pointed out that “people who come into this country illegally made that choice.”
Meanwhile, De León said his lawyer is fighting to keep his wife in the U.S. with him and their four American-born children. “It’s not fair what they’re doing to my wife,” he said in Spanish. “She’s been here 14 years. She doesn’t have a criminal record. She’s a good person.”