By: Rocio Hernandez
Terri Domitrovich, Pastoral minister for St. Avail, witnessed a deportation in 2011. After experiencing a family from her parish break apart when the father was deported back to Mexico, leaving a mother of four alone and with no way to support them, Domitrovich’s perspective on the country’s current immigration policies changed.
With special permission from Pastor Chuck Durante, the family ended up baptizing all the children in February, before they were set to leave the country. Before the family’s departure Domitrovich paid a visit to the family’s home.
“What got to me was this 8-year-old child hanging on my leg saying ‘Terri, I don’t want to go,’” Domitrovich said.
She had no idea that there were people going through such heartache. Since then, she has seen two more families go through a similar situation.
Immigration reform was a major talking point in President Barack Obama’s platform in 2008. The President promised a bill for immigration reform would pass during his first 100 days in office. However, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the Obama administration holds the record for most deportations in the country’s history. An immigration reform bill was not passed until this past June and now awaits a decision from the House of Representatives.
Many organizations throughout the community have created a local fast to bring awareness to the issue for Northern Nevada residents and state officials. Over 20 people have committed to fast throughout January for as long as they can to passively voice their opinions.
“We are following examples of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Cesar Chavez to really show people how much of an issue this is and that it’s urgent and it needs to get done,” said Mi Familia Vota Northern Nevada coordinator Laura Martinez.
Mi Familia Vota, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Justice for Immigration, Northern Nevada Latino Alliance, Justice for Immigrants and the Latino Student Advisory Board worked together to organize a local version of the Fast for Families, an event that took place last year. Four individuals participated in a 22-day fast on November 12. They made the headlines nationwide and were visited by President Obama as well as some members of Congress. Northern Nevada community organizers are hoping to carry the huge momentum gained during that fast into 2014 so it doesn’t get left in the past.
“We are the closest we have ever been to an immigration reform so the time really is now to get something done,” Martinez said.
Fasters aim to bring light to the people that depend on immigration reform, and generate support for them in the community. Fasters emphasize their urgency for a decision from the House by sacrificing their bodies for the cause.
Domitrovich sympathizes with every family she’s witnessed bear the heavy burden of not having proper documentation. It’s because of their donations to the church, she says, that she lives a comfortable life.
“Here I am covered: I have insurance, I have a job, I have a place to sleep, no worries, and these families are stuck in this situation, just trying to navigate a life for their children,” Domitrovich said.
Chapter president for the Northern Nevada Latino Alliance, Cory Hernandez, believes that as a society, we should not be ignoring our fellow human beings suffering.
“I want to see change and I want everyone including Congress to realize that there is a problem and something needs to be done,” Hernandez said. “That’s why I am involved, because I am a human being and I don’t want to see people suffering.”
While fasting, Hernandez thinks about the fear that she sees in her friends’ eyes. Some of her friends have immigration cases still waiting to be processed after more than 13 years. While their cases are pending, so are their lives, and they have had to live with the fear of being deported every day.
“I see them as citizens of this country living in the shadows because they’re raising their families, they’re paying taxes, they’re working, they’re contributing to the well-being of the country and it’s not humane to let them live in the shadows like this,” Hernandez said.
Domitrovich believes that a lot of people understand that there is something wrong with our immigration system. She doesn’t comprehend how it got to be this way and when the number of deportation began to get out of control. Still, she is optimistic that her’s and other’s fasting will inspire others to look at the situation from a different point of view.
“There is ignorance out there, and I think there is apathy, and I think there is confusion, but I think in general, the American people do have big hearts,” Domitrovich said. “Once they understand what the bottom line issues are, in the end, everybody wants our leaders just to get together and figure this out.”
Rocio Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.