A 12 year-old girl from Kansas City travelled to Chicago on Wednesday to ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials why her father was “expeditiously” deported to Mexico in January.
“I just want my dad to come home,” said Nayelly Sandoval, whose father, Josue Sandoval, was deported to Mexico City on January 31 after living in the U.S. for more than 16 years as an undocumented immigrant.
Sandoval was arrested while he was working at a metal scrap yard in Kansas City and was deported about two weeks later, Nayelly said, adding that her father doesn’t have a criminal record.
Backed by immigration reform advocates, Nayelly visited the office of Ricardo Wong, director of ICE’s Chicago Field Office, on Wednesday with hopes that he would meet with her and investigate the circumstances of her father’s deportation.
She says her father should not have been classified as “high priority” and alleges that ICE officials did not exercise prosecutorial discretion. Wong’s signature, Nayelly claims, appeared on her father’s deportation order.
“I want to ask, ‘Why was it so urgent for them to take my dad away?’ I didn’t even get to say goodbye,” she said.
Nayelly was one of several speakers, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Fast For Families activists, to rally against deportations and call for comprehensive immigration reform at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, at 77 W. Washington St., on Wednesday night.
“As a good and faithful Democrat, I’m embarrassed that we have a Democratic administration in the White House and we’re continuing these horrendous deportations,” Preckwinkle said.
More than 400,000 people were deported in fiscal year 2012 — a record high for the nation — and more than 368,000 people were deported in fiscal year 2013. ,If deportation rates continue at their current pace, some 2 million people will have been deported by 2014 under the Obama administration, according to the activists.
On March 14, President Barack Obama called on the Department of Homeland Security to reevaluate its deportation practices "to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law."
Meanwhile, immigration reform legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for America’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants was passed in the Senate in June. In October, House Democrats introduced a nearly identical bill. But Republican House leaders, who previously rebuffed the Senate’s bill, have not acted on either piece of legislation.
“Last year we fasted, we prayed and we acted ... because we have this moral crisis and we believe it’s our moral obligation, we’ve got to do something,” said Dae Joong Yoon, of Fast For Families. “Everyday, more than 1,100 people are being deported. Children are being separated from their mom and dad.”
Yoon was one of four activists who led a water-only fast for 22 days last November outside of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
He urged activists to continue the fast every Wednesday throughout Lent. Part of the Fast For Families campaign, Yoon and a group of activists plan to travel by bus and visit more than seventy-five congressional districts between January 28 and April 9, urging legislators to support comprehensive immigration reform.
“As we fast, as we pray together, I believe we can move the House Speaker’s mind and heart,” Yoon said. “He can open his eyes and see people’s suffering and really listen to children crying, so he can make the right decision… This isn’t about politics, it’s about human beings who are trying their best to provide a better life.”
Yoon was one of several speakers who called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to bring immigration reform legislation up for a vote in his chamber.
“I say to Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives, where I serve, just call the bill,” said Schakowsky. “If comprehensive immigration reform is called, it will pass. Right this minute. We have enough votes.”
“One man, if he were to call the bill, could make this happen,” Schakowsky said.
Here's more from Wednesday's rally:
Meanwhile, activists allege Josue Sandoval would have qualified for a pathway to citizenship under legislation pending in the House. Also, because he was the sole provider for his family, his deportation has left his wife and two children scrambling.
Nayelly’s 17-year-old brother, who is in high school, has had to take up a full-time job and her mom, who is also undocumented, is searching for employment.
“Without my dad here, life isn’t the same,” she said. “My mom and brother and I need him here with us.”
But because she was only able to leave a letter at Wong’s office, Nayelly and the group of activists now plan to travel to Washington D.C. to visit Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Nayelly has also written a letter to President Obama, calling for his intervention.
“I just want my dad back home in Kansas City so we can be a family again,” she said on Wednesday. “Please bring my dad back. Please stop deporting people and stop separating families like mine.”