East Harlem Against Deportation Campaign Seeks Reform of Harsh Immigration Policies

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On a warm and sunny Friday, April 24, a gathering of politicians, advocates, families, members of the community and media crowded the sidewalk and street outside Children's Aid's East Harlem Center to hear elected officials and community organizers speak passionately about the ongoing deportations of undocumented immigrants and the ensuing havoc this wreaks on families and children.

State Senator José M. Serrano, who organized the event, announced a letter-writing campaign that will tell President Obama about the impact of deportations. "One thousand letters doesn't sound like a lot, but it will have an impact," he promised.

Congressman Charles B. Rangel declared that "this is not just a legislative issue, but a moral issue ... it's about human beings, about families, and relationships."

Congressman José E. Serrano, the State Senator's father, asserted that "a country that turns its back on immigrants turns its back on itself." City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "it is painful to be here" because of the nature of the issue, and urged the community to continue the letter-writing campaign and to keep the pressure on officials. The Children's Aid Society's East Harlem Center will collect the letters.

Moria Cappio, Children's Aid's director of Head Start at the East Harlem Center, talked about the agency's history of working with immigrant families in the community, and introduced two parents, both American citizens, who read letters from undocumented parents that were powerful and moving.

All spoke about the need to pass HR 182, the Child Citizen Protection Act, and deplored the cruel and inhuman treatment of undocumented immigrants in detention. Under this legislation, according to Congressman Serrano, judges would have the power to use their judgment to keep families together.