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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mothers of U.S. citizens push for expanded rights for immigrants

Dreamers Mothers in Action and other immigrant advocates at the Supreme Court.
“I would no longer be scared of being separated from my family and I could get a better job,” says Lenka Mendoza of Dumfries, one of many local residents who took part in a demonstration on the steps of the Supreme Court April 18, while the justices heard arguments about a case that would expand the rights of undocumented immigrants.

College students Andrea Delgadillo and Kathleen Ochoa are interns at the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Lenka, the mother of a 10-year-old born in the United States, helped organize the “Dreamers Mothers in Action” events April 15-18. Mothers and their allies from all over the country came to D.C. to voice their fears about the possibility of being deported and separated from their families.

Several states had filed a legal challenge to President Obama’s executive order on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which would grant protections, such as a work permit and exemption from deportation – but not citizenship – to certain parents of children born in the U.S. Those states charge DAPA is unconstitutional, as well as Obama’s efforts to expand DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

During the days leading up to the Supreme Court arguments, the protesters held a series of events showing their support for DAPA, including vigils and an “immigrant trail” exhibit featuring thousands of shoes worn by immigrants with American flags in them.

More than 1,000 Mothers in Action participated in a “fasting chain,” in which a participant fast for a day or a few days, “then passes the fast along to someone else,” says Edgar Aranda-Yanoc of the Legal Aid Justice Center. The chain won’t end until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on DAPA.

Dreamers Mothers in Action arrive at the United Methodist Church of Culmore.
On Monday evening, several of the people who took part in the demonstrations gathered at the United Methodist Church of Culmore in Bailey’s Crossroads to share their stories.

Alejandra Sanchez came from Phoenix to take part in the “Mothers in Action” fast to show her support for DAPA. Originally from Mexico, she says, she would be eligible under DAPA because one of her five children was born in the U.S. She’s been in the States for 15 years, and her parents, brothers, and sisters are all U.S. citizens.

Brenda Salamanca, a native of Bolivia who lives in Burke, became a U.S. citizen when she married a citizen but says she participated in the events at the Supreme Court in solidarity with the undocumented immigrants. 

“We have high hopes that people who pay taxes here can be part of the economy. I’m fighting for everyone’s family,” says Andrea Delgadillo, 19, whose parents brought her from Mexico to the U.S. when she was 4. That makes her a “dreamer” eligible for DACA status, but she’s worried per parents could be deported at any time.

Delgado, a college student in San Francisco, is spending the semester as an intern at the Legal Aid Justice Center and helped coordinate the activities at the Supreme Court. 

In California, undocumented immigrants can get Social Security numbers allowing them to work, and Delgadillo was able to get a scholarship to cover 90 percent of her tuition at California Lutheran University. She had been planning to major in business management, but after working as an advocate for immigrants’ rights, she now wants to switch to pre-law and focus on immigration.

Another intern at Justice for All, Kathleen Ochoa of Alexandria, a student at George Mason University, had a scare last summer when her father, a construction worker, was arrested for driving without a license and the family feared he would be deported. “I went through that pain. I don’t want anyone else to go through that,” she says.

Fortunately, however, she says, a lawyer was able to secure asylum for parents due to the violence in El Salvador.

At a rally at the Court following the arguments in the DAPA case April 18, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told the crowd he was hopeful the justices would support the President because of the way they reacted to the testimony and the questions they asked, Aranda-Yanoc reported.

Many other immigrant groups joined the demonstrations in support of DAPA and an expanded DACA, including the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, and the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center.


  1. The one question that none of these illegal aliens can answer is why they should be given precedence over those thousands of persons waiting patiently to legally enter this country. Instead, they seem to focus on what a hardship it would be for them to be deported regardless of whether they've broken our laws to get here. Worse, their irresponsible actions have put their children into a terrible legal limbo. Although I've supported our President throughout both of his terms in office, this is one issue on which we completely disagree. There is simply no reason to reward foreign nationals for breaking our laws.

  2. I do not understand why these illegal aliens think they have rights here in our country. I do not leave my door unlocked why are we leaving our country unlocked. President Obama never had the right to make that law. He is not a law maker alone. The point here is that he went around congress and did what he wanted. This is not a Monarchy.