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Submitted by Itzayana Banda, NM Dream Team and People Over Private Prisons NM Coalition.

This letter is provided as opinion/commentary from the authors. You can submit your own letter to editor@abq.news

This story also appeared in Commentary

Currently, perspectives on immigration are split. On one side we have those who based their arguments against immigration, citing that our country is one grounded on “law and order.” And on the other side, we have those who believe immigration is a human right for as people we deserve to look for a better life and better opportunities for our families. 

Too often, the stories of families who have been directly impacted and separated by our archaic immigration system are overlooked or buried under all the polarization of the issue itself. But it is within these stories that we find the need for our system to change – to move away from a cruelty-based and punitive one, to a comprehensive and humane system.

I was two years old the first time I was separated from my dad who decided to leave his family behind and follow the American Dream. After a year, my mom told me I was finally going to see my dad – our family finally reunited in 1998 right here in Albuquerque, NM. And everything was dreamy, at least for a while.

In 2011, only days away from Christmas, I received a call that my dad had been detained. After that call my days turned into a nightmare. Because without knowing why and to our surprise, my dad had been transferred to an immigrant detention center, even after paying bond for his release.

My dad got the opportunity to call us 3 days after, and I could hear the pain in my mothers voice. I heard her say, “You’re getting deported! What are the kids and I going to do?” My dad had been transferred to the Otero County Prison Facility in Chaparral. To this day I still remember family members telling my mom “la migra” had him and hearing “la migra” scared me because I knew that was one of my family’s biggest fears. And despite my mom’s efforts, my dad got deported, thus effectively separating our family and ripping a loved one from our lives.

After eight long months of waiting for my dad’s court day, we found out the decision for him to get deported hadn’t changed. He got the opportunity to call my mom and me to tell us: ”Mija I can’t stand [it] here anymore, they treat us badly. I’m getting deported tomorrow. Take care of your siblings for me.” I remember crying and thinking our immigration system was broken. Thinking to myself, “No one cares and no one is ever going to care about me or my immigrant community.”

Separating families is harmful, unnecessary and inhumane. My family’s everyday life got affected really badly because of the ‘laws’ and it’s not just my dad’s story, there are millions of stories like mine because no one puts an end to the criminalization of immigrants.

It’s time to put an end to this cycle of family separation and cruelty that is inflicted on immigrant families. It’s time to shut down our immigrant detention centers that only profit off of the suffering of our families. It is time to reform our immigration system.

Itzayana Banda is a member of the NM Dream Team and People Over Private Prisons NM Coalition.