sending him back to México, while breaking up another Ohio
family of Latino descent. Friends and supporters from Akron,
Lorain, Painesville, and Toledo joined the pilgrimage
along its route.
Marchers, who referred to the event as a pilgrimage, even
carried a statue of
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary, the Mother of God and patroness of all México, on their
8-hour trek from
the Great Lakes Mall in Mentor to St. Casimir Church
in Cleveland, where supporters prayed for the
intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish
“We are very determined,” said Veronica Dahlberg,
executive director of HOLA, a Northeast-Ohio based
grassroots Latino organization focusing on Latino outreach,
advocacy, and community organizing
which helped to organize the procession. “We
needed a game-changer.”
Ramos was due to leave the country Jan. 1, but received a
two-week reprieve due to the efforts of Congressional
representatives Marcy Kaptur and David Joyce. But
Ramos was still due to board a bus for México on Jan. 16, the
same day his daughter Michelle will turn 12 years old. He must
leave under what
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) calls “voluntary
pulled over by local police, who found he was driving without a
license and referred to ICE. The married father of three U.S.
citizen children, derisively referred to by immigration
opponents as “anchor babies,” has worked at Lake County
nurseries for 16 years. The family resides at a Perry Twp.
mobile home park. Ramos recently picked up a second job at a
local restaurant to help the family make ends meet.
“The community is fed up with the family separations and we’re
just basically being ignored by our elected officials and people
in power who have the ability to do something to keep the
government from destroying our families,” said Ms. Dahlberg.
“They just continue to live in their little bubble and they’re
not hearing our pleas for help at all.”
The Ramos family was “adopted” just before Christmas by the
St. Casimir parish, which began praying weekly for a miracle to
intervene in the situation. The parish itself, which was closed
in 2009 by the Cleveland Catholic diocese and whose parishioners
are mostly of Polish descent,
was reopened after three
years of vigils, appeals, and prayers.
Some St. Casimir parishioners called that a miracle, citing the
intercession of the Madonna of Czestochowa—a belief that
resonates with Latinos who share their own strong Catholic-based
tradition of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
The Cleveland-area Latino community also has rallied around
Ramos and his family, because dozens of other workers in Lake
County also could face deportation this year.
“He’s a great guy. He’s a friend. He’s a colleague,” said Ms.
Dahlberg. “He’s part of our organization’s leadership committee.
He went twice to North Carolina with FLOC (Farm Labor
Organizing Committee) to support that group in its
organizing of the tobacco workers. He’s lived in Lake County for
16 years, a taxpayer and father.”
Immigration is expected to be revived as a hot-button political
issue this year, as members of Congress face an important
mid-term election. The filing deadline for upstart Congressional
candidates is Feb. 5 in Ohio—and House Republicans are just
weeks away from releasing a political white paper on immigration
reform. The issue is stalled without a House vote, following
passage of an immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate.
HOLA has made the story of Ramos a rallying cry for its
membership and supporters of immigration reform. Marisela
Lomeli of Painesville led Monday’s walk, after recently
telling reporters her personal story of suffering two years ago,
when her husband and brother also were deported two years ago
following a routine traffic stop.
Marisela came to the U.S. 25 years ago with her husband and
family, making a life state-side with their three children.
“My husband was the best person in my life. Nobody ever had any
problems with us. He was a good man,” she said during a
conference call to promote the Ramos pilgrimage.
After some time, David Lomeli and
a father of four,
attempted to return to their homes and families. They walked
over 40 miles in the desert after crossing the U.S.-Mexico
border, but ultimately succumbed to the elements. Both men died
of heat exposure and dehydration.
According to the HOLA website, “the
separation and permanent ban from re-entry was too much to bear,
so they braved the harsh conditions to cross the desert to
reunite with their families.”
However, the partially decomposed remains of Lomeli were found
in the Arizona desert months later. Last May, the skeletal
remains of Montes were finally positively identified through
The remains were sent to his family in Ohio to be buried.
“I feel so dead in my life, by myself,” Marisela told reporters
about the loss of her husband and brother. “This is not my dream
in the U.S. This is my nightmare.”
HOLA’s leaders contend that in this case, US-America’s lack of
immigration reform is directly responsible for leaving six
“The community that HOLA represents is suffering enormous pain
and hardships. The family is the very core of humanity—and our
broken immigration law is causing sacred bonds to be ripped
apart. We can only guess what the long term repercussions are
for the Latino community. But I already see the devastation in
our weekly meetings,” wrote Ms. Dahlberg in an open letter on
the HOLA website.
Friends and supporters of Ramos will continue praying for an
intervention of some sort. Ramos has said he will obey the law
if he is forced to leave.
“I love him so much that I don't want him to go to México,”
7-year-old Ricardo Ramos, Jr. said of his father in a
story that aired just after Christmas on Cleveland television
“I don't know how it’s going to be without my dad here,” echoed
his daughter Michelle Ramos as she wiped away tears. “He's very
important to this family.”
Ramos has been assured he won’t be arrested by ICE agents, but
will be expected to voluntarily board a bus bound for Mexico by
week’s end. Friends vow to continue working for an intervention
allowing him to return to his family if he does have to leave
Since President Barack Obama took office, more than 1.9 million
people have been deported from the U.S. According to
Cleveland-area media reports, at least 25 other families in the
Painesville area face the same fate in 2014.