In Northwest Ohio, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee
and legal aid groups are waging an ongoing battle with the
Sandusky-based Border Patrol and have called for the resignation
of the regional director of the federal Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) agency.
One of the biggest battles being fought in Northwest Ohio is to
ensure the due process rights of undocumented immigrants.
Baldemar Velásquez, FLOC cofounder and
president, stated many undocumented immigrants are too quick to
admit their undocumented status when questioned by the
authorities—and that honesty only leads to deportation
“You have a right to go to immigration court and ask for a stay
in your deportation, to stay here and take care of your family
and keep working,” he said to a recent gathering. “You’re not
robbing banks. You’re not pushing drugs. That is the discretion
that our president ordered the immigration people to use.”
But Velásquez pointed out that policy and practice have been two
different things in Northern Ohio. Because of that, he is
seeking to find common ground with local law enforcement to
prevent federal intervention—what he is calling a “proactive”
approach with Toledo and Lucas County authorities.
“You can talk philosophically all you want about making Toledo
welcoming to immigrants, but underneath all of the talk are all
these things that are happening and there’s nothing practical
around to address them,” said Velásquez.
Alongside local dialogue, Velásquez and other community
organizers are planning to put their long-time experience to
work drawing attention to the increasing number of deportations
in Ohio and Michigan, starting with an Aug. 8, 2014 march and
protest in Detroit. He stated that civil disobedience may be the
only answer to long-term reform, both in policy and practice.
“There are some things that may come to that, but we’ll decide
that together,” Velásquez said. “The person who needs civil
disobedience is that ICE director in Detroit.”
Latino organizations across the country have sounded the alarm
about the rising rate of deportations, which they claim is
disproportionately affecting Latino immigrants.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition
of 37 Latino groups across the U.S., released a report this
spring that showed:
96.7 percent of all deportations last year—356,303 people in
all—were of Latino descent.
Over 5.5 million children have a parent who is undocumented,
and 4.5 million of those children are U.S. citizens.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Obama Administration deported
more than 200,000 individuals with U.S. citizen children.
According to the NHLA report, when the Obama Administration reaches
two million deportations mark—likely later this year—the number
of Latino deportees will equal the populations of Wyoming,
Vermont, and North Dakota combined. The entire report can be
found online at:
“This administration’s obsession with deportations has had a
devastating impact on Latino families and children. Enough is
NHLA Chair and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin
American Advancement. “We’re here to call on the
president to halt deportations using various forms of
prosecutorial discretion. He has the authority to expand
Example, as cited by paralegal Phillips
One of the people being defended locally is 48-year old Juan
Manuel Gómez of East Toledo, an undocumented immigrant who
has been in Northwest Ohio for nearly 25 years and has a family.
He now is in danger of being deported because of a recent police
stop—in his driveway.
Gómez has worked for the last five years as a forklift operator
and was returning from that job last February, when “a police
car coming the opposite direction turned around and followed him
home.” Gómez further said he went back outside to get his lunch
box and was questioned by the police officer, who also asked to
see his driver’s license.
According to Carolina (Aguilera) Phillips, a paralegal
for a Columbus-based immigration attorney, Gómez had let his
Ohio driver’s license lapse and because of changes in recent
years to state law, is now unable to obtain a valid license.
“My first question was ‘what’s wrong?’ and he told me to shut up
or I would be in trouble,” Gómez recalled.
Ms. Phillips stated that the Border Patrol was called, Sr. Gómez
was handcuffed just outside his home, and forced to wait for
federal immigration agents to arrive. Sr. Gómez was issued two
traffic citations—one for a lack of a driver’s license and a
second because he had objects hanging from his rear-view mirror.
“He wants to get his license again—and if he could, he would,”
said Ms. Phillips.
Gomez was transported more than 50 miles from his home to the
Seneca County Jail in Tiffin, where inmates are commonly held
for deportation proceedings. Ms. Phillips explained that because
he had no criminal history, he was allowed to post a $5,000
His case is now winding its way through immigration court, which
can be a slow and cumbersome process. Ms. Phillips explained
that efforts are underway to get Gómez a work permit before his
next federal hearing.
The antediluvian immigration debate was additionally triggered
by the recent influx—52,000 and counting—of immigrant children
to the southern U.S. border, mainly from
Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. It is not as easy to send
those unaccompanied minors back to their countries as it is
undocumented Mexican immigrants. As a result, Border Patrol
facilities from California to Texas have been taxed to their
limits with children.
President Obama’s declaration in late June to seek more
executive authority to handle the crisis comes in the wake of a
Republican threat to sue the administration over what it terms
an excessive use of presidential power. The House GOP leadership
has refused to call for a vote on an immigration reform bill
that passed the U.S. Senate about a year ago.
political gridlock, analysts contend, effectively means that any
broad-based change in immigration policy is dead for the
year—and possibly for Obama’s remaining term in office. Changing
immigration laws and providing a path to citizenship for about
11 million undocumented immigrants has been one of the
president’s top priorities in his second term,...according to
President Obama has directed his
Homeland Security Secretary and Attorney General to move
available resources to the southern U.S. border and to “identify
additional actions” he can take on his own to address
immigration reform without Congressional action. Such feedback
is due to the president’s desk by the end of the summer.
With no federal immigration reform in sight, the situation
facing the undocumented then, by default, becomes a local issue.
So community organizers such as Velásquez and Ramón Pérez
are turning toward strength in numbers to force proactive
change. Ironically, Velásquez admitted it’s his first attempt to
build a grassroots, Toledo-based group in 47 years of community
“FLOC has built permanent presence in the migrant camps of Ohio
and North Carolina, and so we’re going to build a permanent
presence for the Latinos in the city of Toledo,” he said.
President Obama has asked
Congress for emergency spending of $3.7 billion to deal with the
crisis of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America
streaming into the United States, but for now he won't seek
legal changes to send the children back home more quickly.