WASHINGTON – Beatriz Salas stood outside the White House on Thursday to urge President Barack Obama and Congress to revise the nation’s immigration policies so that her family can be united.
“I hope for myself to find someone to help me get my husband back. If not I’ll keep fighting until immigration reform passes,” said Salas, a 37-year-old mother of four who has lived in Rogers, Ark., for 13 years.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched the mile from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency headquarters to the White House to demand an end to the deportation of undocumented immigrants. More than 130 staged a sit-in and were arrested when they refused to clear a sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue outside the presidential residence.
Salas, who had three of her children with her, did not join in the act of civil disobedience but supported those who did. Several other Arkansans also were at the demonstration and were also not among those arrested.
Salas came to the demonstration to offer her story as an example of how U.S. immigration policies are doing harm. A month ago, her husband Leonel Salazar was deported over a 2008 conviction for driving while intoxicated. About 1,000 undocumented immigrants are deported every day, according to rally organizers.
Salazar, 38, came to the United States from Mexico when he was three years old. For the last 13 years, he has been in Rogers - working in residential construction and living with Salas, who left Mexico when she was 16. The couple have four children, all U.S. citizens. The oldest, 18-year-old Eduardo, recently joined the Army National Guard, she said.
Salazar’s mother was granted U.S. citizenship two years ago and his immigration application is pending. The DWI conviction, however, led the federal authorities to deport him back to Mexico where he has no work.
“I am here so I can show how immigration broke my family,” Salas said.
Salas has reached out to Arkansas officials but has little confidence that anyone in the state’s Congressional delegation will support immigration reform. They are focused on border security and the need to follow immigration rules.
“To all the people who say follow the rules first, I say how do you stay in the line when you have hungry kids?” she said.
Salas also notes that if they had stayed in Mexico and waited their son would not be serving in the National Guard.
“I gave my son to the country. Why does the country want my family separated?” she said.