Among the thousands of marchers on May Day in Los Angeles were children born in the United States who were present alongside their undocumented parents.
Since immigration raids began to intensify this past February, the fear of deportations continues to permeate in the valley and greater L.A.’s immigrant community. For some families, the dread of separation is all too real.
On Sunday, April 30 — when Mexico celebrates Dia de los Ninos –Children’s Day is a carefree family holiday where children often get gifts and their childhood is celebrated — but several children and their undocumented parents had a much more sober holiday. They showed up at Placita Olvera church in downtown Los Angeles to denounce the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the White House, and renew their pleas to President Trump to stop his deportation attack.
Among them were San Fernando Valley residents Jersey Vargas, 13, and Sophie Cruz, 7, who have become symbols for minors born in the United States to undocumented parents. It is estimated that more than 6 million US born children are in this situation.
Vargas gained notoriety when, in 2014, she went to the Vatican and asked Pope Francis to advocate for an immigration reform when he met with then President Obama.
Cruz made the same plea, but did so when the Pope came to the US in 2015, approaching the PopeMobile and handing him a letter asking to advocate on behalf of her undocumented parents.
“We have to continue this fight without stopping. We have to tell President Trump that we have the right to grow up with our parents,” Vargas said.
Her father, Mario Vargas López, is still fighting a deportation order after being convicted in Tennessee — where he had gone to work — for driving under the influence. He was then taken into an immigration detention center in Louisiana.
Cruz’s parents do not have a deportation order hanging over them. But the fear of being caught in an immigration raid remains.
“With the raids, one lives alarmed and expectant, not knowing if one is going to return home after work,” said Raul Cruz, Sophie’s father, in a previous interview.
“Being undocumented does not mean one is a criminal. Human beings by nature are immigrants.”
“We’re not stopping,” vowed Sophie. “I rather [not play] games for a march.”
An estimated 15,000 men, women and children were marching in the streets of Los Angeles on Monday, May 1.
“There’s so much at stake right now for our families, our communities, and our nation. Families, Muslims, and basic constitutional rights are under attack in the United States and that means the bedrock of our economy, the pride of our communities, and strength of our diverse nation are also under attack,” said CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas. “We can join the resistance, shut it down in the best way we know how, or we can watch from afar hoping we are not the next target.”
“In a country founded by immigrants, we are a city of immigrants,” LA City Councilmember José Huizar said.
“We stand with our immigrant community as family, as friends and as partners in the critically important economic engine that is the Southern California region. We don’t need hateful rhetoric or the dividing of families through deportation out of Washington, D.C. On this May Day we renew our vow to President Trump for a solution that works for all. Comprehensive immigration reform — now.”