Sara Navarro came to the U.S. from Honduras at age 12 as an undocumented immigrant, eager to join her parent in what she had heard was "a land of opportunity for all." But, she says, "When I was 13 I learned that this country was not a land of opportunity for all, but only for some. I witnessed the deportation of my brother-in-law and my uncle. My sisters were left alone with an 8-month-old baby."
Navarro was approved for deferred-action legal status this year. But her brothers and sisters are still in jeopardy — and now, the father of her niece and nephew is facing deportation, after being picked up driving without a license, she says.
It's that type of situation that Navarro and other immigrant activists are trying to stop in Philadelphia, where they say that an excessive number of immigrants are being threatened with deportation due to a special license with Immigration and Customs Enforcement giving ICE access to the city's Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS). That license is up for renewal in two days, on Aug. 31. Today at City Hall, immigrants and their kids gathered to tell stories of how the license negatively affects families and communities, by separating parents from children and by making people afraid to go to the police if they witness or fall victim to a crime.
Mayor Nutter, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield and DA Seth Williams can together decide to end the license. But Nutter Chief of Staff Everett Gillison told City Paper previously that he does not believe the PARS license is hurting immigrants, because FBI crime reporting would convey arrest information to ICE anyway. New Sanctuary Movement, which organized the protest, says that's people are undoubtedly being picked up who wouldn't be without the license in place.
The way activists like Navarro see it, every day the license remains in place, another family can be destroyed. "I'm worried about my niece's and nephew's future and mental health. It breaks my heart when I hear my niece talking about her dad, when he will come back, what she will wear and where they would go. That is a dream that might never come true."
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