Helen is asleep, dreaming of her lacrosse match the next day, the latest poem she has been working on and her weekend plans with friends from her church group. Suddenly, she is woken up, dragged from her bed at gunpoint and told that none of the things that she has been working toward and dreaming of are possible for her. Helen's dreams have been interrupted by a living nightmare.
Helen Mejia-Perez was born in 1996 in Novato, California. Her parents had lived in this small Northern California town for five years and saw it as a perfect community in which to raise their small family. As a young child, Helen was full of positive energy and loved to play with her older brother, Gilbert. She and her family enjoyed "spending quality time together, from going to Disneyland to just taking a walk in the park..."
Helen began school at Marin Montessori in 2001. She enjoyed art and was well liked by her teachers and classmates. Helen excelled throughout elementary school and into middle school, flourishing as young poet and exemplary student. One teacher described her as an "outstanding student [who] contributed enormously to her classroom and the whole school... [she] is bright, motivated, independent, and compassionate". Her friends described her as "a super-fast reader who could read a 500 page book in one day if she wanted to" and smart, but always ready to laugh.
On March 7, 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement woke Helen with guns raised and told her to join her family in the living room. Helen had no idea what was happening. She knew her parents as "very hard working [people] [who] have always supported me with my education... taught us to help our community, help our church, and to try our hardest in school". As she stood shivering in the living room, surrounded by ICE agents, she could not comprehend what was happening to her family.
Helen's parents, Salvador and Elida, had come to the United States in 1992 with their infant son, Gilbert. They were fleeing the violence that had ravaged their home country of Guatelmala and seeking a better life for their baby. They worked hard, bought their home in Marin County, raised three children, learned English, paid taxes and become invaluable members of their community.
Today, Salvador and Elida wear ankle bracelets to alert ICE if they stray too far from their home. ICE agents visit their house weekly. Helen sees the anguished looks on her parents' faces and knows that she may be about to lose everything she has ever known. 4 year old Dulce does not know what is about happen to her life, although she too senses fear from her parents.
At 1AM this Thursday, Salvador, Elida, Helen and Dulce will report to ICE for deportation to Guatemala. Helen and Dulce are US Citizens by birth. They are about to be torn from their country and taken to a place they have never seen. Helen's rigorous education will come to a halt, she will be separated from the friends and community that have shaped her life, her friends will miss her contagious laughter and her entire world will be uprooted - and who could explain to her why? She wonders why "other US citizens live happy lives, and then there's me." And she's right to wonder: How does this country benefit from an immigration system that rewards Helen's hard work and good spirits with trauma and devastation?
Senator Feinstein has refused to save the family by introducing a private bill, claiming not to see "exceptional hardship" to the family, should they be deported. We ask her to read Helen's story and reconsider her position.
And we ask President Obama, is this the immigration reform you promised? Is deporting US Citizen children your solution to our broken immigration system?
Please sign and send this letter, demanding Senator Feinstein step in and stop the deportation of Helen and Dulce, United States citizens, and their parents Salvador Mejia-Reyes and Elida Perez-Mazariegos, as well as their son, Gilbert Mejia-Perez.
Call Senator Dianne Feinstein at following offices and ASK:
"Senator, why are you deporting U.S. Citizens?"
D.C.: (202) 224-3841
San Francisco: (415) 393-0707
Los Angeles: (310) 914-7300
DEMAND that she introduce a private bill for the Mejia-Perez Family.
Salvador and Elida are originally from Guatemala, but have been living in Novato, California for over 17 years, since February 1992. They have three children: Gilbert, who is 18 years old and just started junior college, and who came to the U.S. when he was one year old; Helen, who is 13 years old and a freshman in high school, and who is a U.S citizen (born in California); and Dulce, who is 4 years old and is also a U.S. citizen (also born in California). Gilbert would be a model beneficiary of the DREAM Act, so long as he is allowed to remain in the U.S. until that legislation passes.
In March 2007, the family was subjected to a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), in which both the kids and the parents were forced out of bed at gunpoint in the very early hours of the morning by ICE officers. Since that time, Helen, who had been an outstanding student and published young poet, has suffered severe PTSD and now continues to battle with that and with the prospect of being forced to move to Guatemala in order to remain with her family, despite being a U.S. citizen. Dulce also has a serious health condition – she was diagnosed with “Failure to Thrive” as a baby, and continues to be chronically underweight and has difficulty swallowing food.
In October 2007, a judge granted them a form of relief called “cancellation of removal”, which would have resulted in them receiving their green cards and becoming lawful permanent residents. The judge recognized that deportation of Salvador and Elida would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to their U.S. citizen children, Helen and Dulce. Unfortunately, the government appealed that finding and the decision was reversed (and all other avenues for relief have been exhausted), which is why they are now facing deportation.
The only chance they have of staying in the US as a family is for you to introduce a private bill on their behalf. I ask that you take this into consideration and I strongly encourage you to help this family.