Washington – Jesus Magana, a resident of the state of Arizona who is of Mexican descent, protested before the White House Thursday.
“I was in the Army for four years: I fought for my country, I bled, I cried, I ached for this country I love, I was ready to die for this country, and that same country is deporting my family,” Magana mourned.
He is part of a group of 44 pro-immigration activists from Tucson and Phoenix who travelled more than 40 hours by bus this week to arrive in Washington and demand that Republican John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, finally call for a vote on the issue of immigration reform.
The trip was in vain.
“We arrived on Tuesday morning, we went to his office and his secretary was outside waiting for us. It’s quite funny, because there is a sign that says, ‘Hi, I’m John Boehner, please come in,’ but they did not let us in. They told us his agenda is full and he has no time to talk to us,” Magana said.
For two days, the activists stood around the corridors of Congress, “praying and singing psalms for congressmen,” but they did not get an appointment, he said.
So on Thursday they moved on to the White House, where they prayed and sang outside in support of the call for immigration reform that US President Barack Obama was making inside to the very same Congress that would not meet with them.
“This is the moment when we should be able to the job done,” Obama said in a brief address that focused exclusively on immigration reform.
The reform is an unfulfilled promise of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and he renewed it after he achieved re-election last year. Now, after Washington’s recent political crisis, Obama has again placed the issue as a legislative priority.
“Now it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not,” Obama said.
However many times Magana tells his story, tears of sadness and rage well up in his eyes again and again. He and his sister arrived in the United States as kids, with their mother, who just wanted to grant her children a better future.
He is already a US citizen, after doing military service. His sister, however, is being deported. Magana says he is afraid for her and for his nephew, who “is afraid to leave the house because he does not want to go to a country he does not know.”
“I don’t think a 13-year-old child should live in fear,” Magana says.
After months of intense campaigning, pressure groups for immigration reform say they trust that it will eventually happen.
“We will have immigration reform, sooner or later, but we will have it,” says trade union leader Eliseo Medina, who went to the White House Thursday to support the activists from Arizona. “We have to keep fighting.”
Obama’s calls to Republicans in Congress have so far been met with the same silence that upset the activists.
These now plan to get back on the bus that took them to Washington with a new destination: Ohio, Boehner’s home state, where they hope “to keep advocating urgent action from the speaker of the lower house (of Congress) on immigration reform.”
There, Magana will once again tell whoever is willing to listen his story, which is shared by many who also fear family separation caused by the deportations of members who remain undocumented migrants. Indeed, there are an estimated 11.7 million such undocumented migrants in the United States.
“That is what we are asking for, for them to hear our stories, to know that we are human, that we have feelings, that we cry, that we live in terror everyday,” Magana said.