by Michael Harrington, Sandusky Register
NORWALK, OH — People gathered at Suhr Park in Norwalk Monday to let the country know they wouldn’t remain quiet about more than 100 people being taken away from their families and the community.
Tiffin Area Pax Christi and others hosted the Rally for Justice in Immigration to give the community a chance to protest the immigration raids at two Corso’s Garden and Flower Center locations last week that separated families.
Dozens of people attended the rally, where speakers railed against the conduct of the immigration agents during the raid, and the net result of splitting up families.
Families torn apart
One of the speakers, 15-year-old Natalia Alonso, didn’t know anyone arrested in the raid, but she saw the pain in her peers’ faces and created Los Ninos de Corso’s to help.
“It affects me seeing peers my age and little kids crying. Honestly, I just wanted to help and I thought donations would be the best way,” Alonso said. “Los Ninos de Corso’s is a Latino youth group. We’re here to support any of the kids who were affected. They can reach out to us on our page and tell us what they need and we will gladly help them.”
The Rev. Samuel Price, who immigrated to America as a young boy, said the issue goes beyond politics and is a matter of justice.
The detainment of 114 Corso’s workers means that many children are now living without a parent. Children like 15-year-old Juan Perez, whose mother was taken, is one of those children.
“If you look Mexican they don’t care if you are illegal they just arrest you right away,” Perez said. “This happened last year on a smaller scale when they took my dad and now they took my mom. If they both get sent back to Mexico, I’m going to to have to stay in foster care or go with them.”
Perez’s father was released after posting a $10,000 bond and he doubts they’ll be able to pay for his mother’s bond. He’s having a hard enough time paying for the phone calls to her.
But Perez knows many kids whose whole families were taken and a baby who, if her father is deported, may never get to know him.
“I’m trying to help around the community, but I still need to take care of my little brother and sister,” Perez said. “My sister doesn’t even know my mom’s gone she thinks she’s still at work.”
Liz Lugo was at work when her stepdaughter got a phone call from her mother. She could hear screaming before the call disconnected.
“Then her mother texted her and said immigration was there and they were taking them,” Lugo said. “It was just a shock. They took so many.”
Lugo has faced similar pain when the father of her granddaughter was deported to Mexico, but her granddaughter going with him was not an option because of a health condition.
“She has a birth defect, which means she has to be within so many miles of a trauma-one center,” Lugo said. “My daughter made a sincere effort to try to keep the family together. She moved to Texas, but it just became too tough. She had to decide between her daughter’s safety or keeping the family together.”
Lugo also laments the possible bright futures taken away from the children who must decide between living without a parent or going to Mexico. Many of the children of immigrants are American-born citizens.
“My grandparents came here from Mexico in the 30s and made a life for us. That’s our legacy just like everyone else,” Lugo said. “But now they’ve cut these people’s legacies out and who knows what we could lose. The next president, a neurosurgeon or a teacher.”
A woman, who only wanted to be identified as Ana, said her mother was also taken in the raid and she still hasn’t gotten any answers.
“She’s been in the process of getting her visa, but they still haven’t let her go,” Ana said. “It’s hard because she was helping me with my kids … my kids need her, I need her and I just want her back.”
Renae Ramirez’s husband was also in the process of obtaining a green card, but it was delayed when they had to start paying for her cancer treatment. Now he’s detained.
“I’m just absolutely devastated. We have four kids together and when I told them their dad wasn’t coming home they’ve cried every night,” Ramirez said. “We (the family and community) have to stick together.”
Not everyone at the rally was directly affected but almost everyone there was shocked by the news and felt for the families.
“It’s just wrong. I looked at my 2-year-old and just couldn’t imagine what the parents who were separated from their children must be going through,” Courtney Osman said.
Jim Ensign has lived in Norwalk for five years and came to the rally because he couldn’t believe what he saw.
“I’m here to make make sure there’s a strong reaction. I’m 71 years old and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ensign said. “This local example of a national trend that has been scaring me.”
The news traveled nationally with Patricia Dwight hearing about it while she was at her granddaughter’s graduation in another state.
“I was devastated. I’ve been a customer at Corso’s for years and the people who worked there were just the nicest,” Dwight said. “I’ve been rendered speechless and I want to help. I’ve been making calls to my representatives because the immigration system is broken and this is going to keep happening until its fixed.”
But not everyone there shared these opinions. A minority who supported the deportation of undocumented immigrants were protesting the rally with signs supportive of President Trump.
“I think its bull,” Tony Jester said. “There are felons in this country who struggle to get jobs that undocumented workers had. I feel bad for the kids but the parents should have come in the right way.”
U.S. House candidate talks
Janet Garrett, the Democratic nominee in the 4th U.S. House District race against incumbent Rep. Jim Jordan, attended the rally.
“I rallied with hundreds of concerned citizens in Norwalk to protest our broken immigration system,” Garrett said. “The tragic raids that rocked Northeast Ohio last week are evidence of just how broken our immigration system is. We are indeed a nation of laws, but when those laws are unjust and result in such clear immorality, it is the responsibility of our leaders to do right by our principles and change the law.”
Jordan was not at the rally and he said previously he would continue to work for solutions to the immigration problem.