My mom, dad, sister and I moved to the United States from Russia right after the Soviet Union fell apart. It took us 15 years to get permanent residency, and many years for my dad — even longer for my mom — to find work that sustained our family. Despite these struggles, we never ended up moving back home to Moscow. The life my parents found in the United States surpassed what they knew they would find back home.
Growing up, my elementary school and our apartment complex were full of kids like me whose parents had moved from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Somalia. Immigration has been a part of my life since I was 4 — and over the years, I’ve met many other immigrants whose families went through stories that made my own feel like heaven on Earth.
I recently participated in a nationwide fast by women who are taking leadership in the national push to transform our immigration system. Together with two others in Burlington, I joined women in the Women’s Fast for Families who were demonstrating courage and standing up for the right thing even when it’s hard, unlike Congress and the president.
April 5 was a national day of action demanding the president stop all deportations now. The Obama administration deported 2 million people. Obama has the power to put a moratorium on deportations, and he should do it. Deportations tear families and communities apart. Many who migrate here come from countries that this government has devastated through war, occupation or economic domination. Granting status for millions of undocumented people is a matter of justice, equity, love and family.
Here in Vermont, one of the ways that our neighbors are funneled into the deportation system is by local law enforcement not fulfilling bias-free policies that they have been mandated to have by law since 2013. It means that some local law enforcement agencies are exercising racial bias and collaborating with immigration enforcement, leading to the deportation of members of our communities. To show your solidarity with Migrant Justice and the national movement, call your legislator and tell them to support the creation of a mechanism to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to bias-free policing.
Congress has the obligation to transform immigration law so that it respects the human rights and dignity of all people living and working in the United States, and recognizes the root causes of why people come to this country. That has to include a way for everyone who lives and works here to have citizenship status. If the reform only makes citizenship available for some — such as high-tech workers — then it leaves behind the millions of people, mostly women, who work in low-wage industries.
Unfortunately, in our world today some people hold the power to change the lives of millions of others in the palm of their hands. I hope that Obama and Congress will take seriously the thousands of people who fasted and demonstrated and took action for women, families and communities.
Darya Marchenkova lives in Burlington.MORE IN Commentary
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