On Saturday, a standing-room only crowd gathered at Pabellón de la Victoria, a Hispanic evangelical church south of Orlando, FL to call for immigration reform and family unity in the United States. Attendees, who included pastors from dozens of churches of various denominations, activists and local politicians, and many Latino community members, heard emotional testimonies from families who had been ripped apart by the current immigration system.
A native-born United States citizen recounted the day he got a call from his frantic 7-year-old son telling him that police had taken his mother. The couple went on stage with their three boys — the Honduran woman still wearing an electronic ankle bracelet tracking her whereabouts. The husband, Robert Cote said:
“I am an American citizen, and I am a veteran of this country,” said Robert Cote, who fought with the U.S. Army in Operation Desert Storm. “I’m ashamed and I’m angry at the way Latino immigrants are treated in this country. … I fought in war for this country, and I’m going to fight this war for my family” and all immigrants.
Outside of the church gathering, our partners at the Florida Immigrant Coalition urged people to get involved in the same fight for immigration reform.
The next day, in Miami, another large crowd gathered to hear more testimonies, including speeches by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (who is spearheading this 17-stop Family Unity tour). Diaz-Balart spoke out about the seperation of families and noted that taking parents away from their US-born children is not the right approach to immigration enforcement.
One woman, a United States citizen, sobbed as she told the story of her husband’s arrest. The testimonies at these events show that it is not just the immigrant community who is affected by the outdated immigration system – its everyone.