Three weeks ago, my family’s world was turned upside down. My 16-month-old child, Jeffrey, woke up crying that morning. My partner Julio warmed up some milk and gave it to him before he left our Long Island, N.Y. home to go to work. Jeffrey waved him goodbye as he saw his father leaving.
When I think about our case, I can’t make sense of why ICE would want to tear Julio away from us. In recent years, the Obama administration has said it was taking steps to make immigration enforcement more humane — and that it would focus on not separating families. But how, then, can they justify separating ours?
Soon after Julio left, there was loud pounding on the door. The people outside yelled: “Open the door, it’s ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).” I was terrified. Our eldest son, Julio Jr., was trembling. I turned on the camera outside our front door to see what was happening outside. ICE was arresting Julio. They were tearing my family apart.
Our third child was due one week later. I was so distraught, however, that I ended up giving birth that same day. I was very relieved that our new baby, Cristopher, was born healthy. But I am very worried that my stress is having a negative impact on his health.
Now, we’re fighting for the future of our family. It makes no sense that ICE would try to separate a family like ours, and we’re begging for them to return Julio to us.
Julio and I first met when I moved to New York in 2005. My uncles knew him and they found me work in one of the stores Julio supervised. He had arrived in the U.S. decades earlier, fleeing the civil war in El Salvador in 1986, and lived here ever since.
Julio and I had an instant connection, and we exchanged numbers the day we met. Working together allowed us to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other. A year after we met, we started living together and we have been together ever since.
Julio used to work both days and nights, sometimes sleeping only two hours a night. When I gave birth to our first child, he asked his employer to allow him to work only during the day so he could help with the childcare. He would work during the day and take care of our baby at night; I would take care of our baby during the day and work at night.
Julio and I shared caretaking responsibilities since the beginning. Whenever Julio Jr. was sick and needed to see a doctor, we would take him together.
While Jeffrey was still a baby, the cleaning company Julio worked for went bankrupt. But Julio found a way to get enough work elsewhere so our children would have enough to eat. He also ensured we had enough money to pay rent and our bills.
Julio works so hard for his family. For a while, he worked for a delivery company where he woke up at 3:30 am and got back home midnight. I was worried about him, but Julio simply said he needed to do what was necessary to take care of our family.
Since Julio was taken away, I’ve seen my world crumbling around me. Our children have been beside themselves. Julio Jr. did not want to go to school that first day, and he has hardly been able to eat or sleep since. He tells me, “It hurts here inside that the police took daddy,” as he gestures to his heart. He is frequently crying under the covers. I also frequently find him praying, asking God to let his father stay with us. He even asked his teacher to call the police and ask them not to send his father to El Salvador.
Taking Julio away from our children would mean our children losing part of themselves. Julio would give his life for his children, and they need him desperately.
When I think about our case, I can’t make sense of why ICE would want to tear Julio away from us. In recent years, the Obama administration has said it was taking steps to make immigration enforcement more humane — and that it would focus on not separating families. But how, then, can they justify separating ours? While Julio was arrested in the past for minor offenses, he has had no problems with law enforcement for a dozen years. ICE has the discretion to look at the particular factors in his case and stop his deportation, because he should not be an enforcement priority.
After Julio was taken, I called a hotline and was connected to a community organization called Make the Road New York. The lawyers and organizers there have been working since that day to help me bring Julio home and support my family during this time. But I know so many people are going through this on their own. I can't bear to think about what that would be like.
Julio is my right hand. I don’t currently have a job, and Julio pays for everything and helps with the childcare. I do not want to have to live on the streets with my children, but, if ICE does not let Julio come back to us, I’m not sure what we will do.
I’m praying, like my son, for a miracle for our family. I’m praying that ICE will see that the best place for Julio is back with his children.