January 28, 2009

Group Representing 600 Children Of Immigrants Sues President Obama

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

In a move that was noticed almost exclusively by Spanish-language media, a Miami-based organization representing 600 children of immigrants has sued none other than President Barack Obama.

American Fraternity Inc. filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court to demand that President Obama stop the deportations of the children’s parents.

Two of the children said they started a hunger strike to ask that their mother not be deported to Nicaragua.

The organization’s executive director Nora Sándigo, who is the children’s legal guardian, told BBC Mundo:

Some of the kids are children of persons with a court date and imminent deportation proceedings, others have one of their parents in jail with a date for exiting the country already set.

But there’s also children who were left here when their mother or their father was deported some time ago, and others whose parents, knowing they do not have documentation and aware that the same will happen to them if Immigration catches them, joined (the suit) as a preventative measure.

All the minors are U.S. citizens, they live in a number of American states and their families trace their roots to various Latin American countries, the BBC’s Carlos Ceresole noted.

The suit is intended to place the decision to halt the deportations on Obama’s desk. According to Spanish news service Agencia Efe, the president can make a decision if the Supreme Court allows the case to go forward.

“We do this not because we may be against him –Sándigo told Efe–, but so that he can use his authority to issue an executive order stopping deportations.”

Cecia Sosa, 12, and her brother Ronald, 9, said Tuesday they had initiated a hunger strike to prevent their mother from being deported on the scheduled date, which is tomorrow.

“We’re doing a hunger strike to help my mom get out of jail,” a sobbing Cecia told The Associated Press. “I would do whatever it takes to get my mommy out… I want Obama to see me to help my mother.” The girl said she had only ingested liquids in the previous 24 hours.

The children’s mother, Maricela Sosa –who entered the U.S. on foot from Mexico in 1997–, was detained at the family’s Pompano Beach, Fla., home on Dec. 19. She had just taken Cecia to the school bus stop when Immigration officers took her away.

The children’s father Ronald, who is also undocumented, was staying at an undisclosed location for fear of being deported, The A.P. said.

American Fraternity had already filed a similar lawsuit against Pres. George W. Bush, but the Supreme Court rejected it on a technicality, according to the group’s lawyer Alfonso Oviedo Reyes.

The attorney said before the immigration laws of 1996 were passed, undocumented parents of American children had the right to have their deportation reviewed in court. They could obtain residency if they could show that they had been in the U.S. for over seven years, had good moral character, and the hardship inflicted on their kids by their deportation would be extreme.

“They had that right for over forty years, but with the immigration reform of 1996 that was taken from them and they didn’t get anything in return,” Oviedo Reyes said. “Congress shut down all the ways to obtain legal residency and that’s why the number of undocumented immigrants has increased.”

Congress also ruled that class-action immigration cases cannot be filed in federal courts; hence the only venue where they can be presented is the Supreme Court.

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