The 114 workers taken from the Sandusky and Catalia garden centers were forced to leave everything, including family, behind Tuesday, leaving the question on many people’s lips, ‘What will happen to the children?’
A press conference held Thursday at Lorain’s El Centro sought to give the community a glimpse of the impact the raid has had on the Latino community, as well as the pending impact it will have on the nation and its economy.
Lorain Councilman Angel Arroyo, Jr., spoke as one of the six panel members at the conference, which many were referring to as a protest to the way the raid was handled.
“It’s uncalled for and is nothing more than pure bullying from our United States president,” he said.
“He’s seeking to go after men and women that are working, rather than what he promised — that was going after drug members, murderers, gang members and killers, but you have to spend more time and money to do that. ... When Border Patrol takes these people, they not only separate and hurt the families, they hurt the economy. Our president is really actually bullying our taxpayers, who are now going to have to pay for these children who now need services.”
During the conference, El Centro executive director Victor Leandry set up a phone conference with two families staying in the “Norwalk/Willard area.” Leandry did not identify the families by name, or give their exact location, “for their safety.”
’They took away my dad’
Two brothers from a family of three that has lived in Ohio for the past 16 years asked to speak to the media in English.
“They took away my dad and I feel afraid,” the 10-year-old boy said. “We wonder where he’s going to go. Please don’t let him go back to Mexico.
“I love him and when I go to sleep, I just keep thinking about him, so I can’t even sleep. When I think about it, I always cry. ... I start to cry because I don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t want him to go to Mexico. We can’t go to Mexico, so you need to please let him (come home). I’m thinking about my dad all the time. He’s always nice to us. He buys us food and I don’t want him to go to Mexico.”
His 7-year-old brother also spoke to the media, but started to cry shortly after he started talking about missing his father.
“I’m always thinking about my dad and I don’t want him to go,” he said. “I don’t want him to be taken from us. Please, don’t let them take him away from us.”
A woman, who’s husband was taken, leaving her with three children, said via a translator she’s “so scared, I don’t know what to do.” She said her husband works sometimes from 6 a.m. until midnight and does little outside of work “so we could have a better future for our kids.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without my husband, how I’m going to pay the bills, the rent, or provide food for them,” she said via the translator. “I just don’t know. I have a 17-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old. The 17-year-old, he told me that he will be the one to provide for the family now. ... This is so traumatizing for all of our kids.”
The mother said she removed the air conditioning unit from her window so no one would know anyone lived in the house and because she was “afraid they (Border Patrol) would crawl in through the window and I didn’t want them to take me and leave my kids behind.”
“These families are in fear of walking outside,” said El Centro case worker Anabel Barron, who was visiting the family. “They have pretty much barricaded themselves in their houses.”
Where will the kids go?
Leandry said the children left behind by the parents facing deportation will be entered into government care facilities or in some cases fall to the way side.
Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy backed that statement, adding that “children’s services does not get a call from I.C.E. saying this is going to happen,” meaning the organization has no way to prepare either for the influx in children needing help, or the ones who fall through the cracks.
“As public servants, our first concern is safety of people,” he said. “No child should have to go to bed at night, worried about being separated from their parents, wake up in the morning worried about being separated from their parents. The actions taking place right now are immoral and unAmerican. ... They have this program set up for these children to end up in a migration camp or facility. At that point, they can be seprated from their familes; they can be deported; they can be sent to another state. That is not the America we know and love. Our first responsibility is to take of the children of this country.”
Also at the conference was Janett Garret, who is running for Congress and has been working in Norwalk with some of the families and churches that are providing refuge and supplies for the affected families.
“This didn’t have to happen,” she said. “We need a different type of immigration reform. This is trumatizing for children. We cannot be doing this to children for political gamesmanship — and that’s what it’s about. ... We should be looking for the best of American values. We should be looking for kindness.”
How to help the families
Many have reached out to the Reflector, asking how to help the children and families affected by the raid.
Leandry encouraged people to call their local, state and national political leaders, expressing their opinions and asking for reform.
El Centro’s executive director also said that although Sandusky, percentage-wise, has the largest Latino community, there is not a specific Latino organization in the area. Neither is there one in Norwalk, Willard or other surrounding communities.
‘There is a severe lack of social service in that community,” he said, adding El Centro has been looking into expanding its reach to the areas well before the raid occurred.
“The layout of that community (Huron and Erie counties) is more rural and people are more spread around, so it’s more difficult to establish a strong Latino community,” Leandry said. “But I think you’ll be surprised. I think this is going to bring us together. This is a great opportunity, even though it’s a challenge. It could be an opportinity for the Latino communtiy to come together and help (Huron) county.”
Arroyo agreed, adding that he has already seen that support in his family when his cousin’s undocumented husband was deported.
“It was that circle of undocumented families in Norwalk that would go to her house and take her groceries and make food for her and they would go throughout Norwalk, Willard and Fremont to help,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit community that supports each other. That’s basically what makes us go. That’s what makes America go. When we struggle, we know we can get help from other people. With natural disasters, we rely on each other. This is the same process. We all need to come together.”
Donations are being accepted on behalf of the families at the Norwalk’s St. Paul Catholic Church and Bienvenidos Templo Genesaret Norwalk, at 119 N. Pleasant St. Authorities said diapers, formula, kids food and monetary donations are of the most need.