Chicago – Dozens of U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants are meeting at a Methodist church in Chicago to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe and write letters they will send to President Barack Obama asking him not to deport their parents.
"President, I beg you not to deport my parents this Christmas," wrote Jesus Arriaga in one of the first of their letters to be delivered to the White House before Christmas.
Beside him on Thursday night was undocumented mother Guadalupe Lopez, who has lived in the United States for 14 years and who described her drama in another letter saying that immigration authorities want to separate her from her U.S.-born children.
"I'm in the deportation process and at a minimum - if I have to leave the country - I won't be able to come back for 10 years," she said.
The prayers and letters are part of a nationwide campaign entitled "Don't Take Away Our Parents," which in Chicago is led by the Familia Latina Unida/Centro Sin Fronteras organization that fights the separation of families through deportations.
The organization has invited youngsters whose parents face a deportation order to meet at Lincoln United Methodist Church for Thursday and Friday night Novenas to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"We want Obama to treat the community well and take measures to keep the Department of Homeland Security from dragging its feet and delaying the application of his policy of discretion in dealing with cases that involve people being sent away," Emma Lozano, president of Familia/Centro, said.
She recalled that in August, after a year of campaigning by activists on behalf of U.S.-born children and their families, Homeland Security announced a new policy to put deporting actual criminals ahead of expelling people accused only of immigration offenses.
"The DHS promised to review 300,000 existing deportation orders and rule on them individually, but the bureaucracy drags its feet and the separation of families continues," Lozano said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who headed a nationwide campaign to pressure the government into revising its deportation policies, has organized informative workshops in Chicago and prepared lists with names of people who could benefit from the new policy, as a way of helping the government follow up on those cases.
Nonetheless, he acknowledged this week that the implementation of the new guidelines has been delayed and their application has been erratic.
Centro Sin Fronteras, the organization that sheltered Mexican activist Elvira Arellano in a Chicago church for a year, demanded in a communique an end to deportations of those who have put down roots in this country.