Family members from Mexico who haven’t seen their relatives in more than 20 years due to their immigration status were reunited at an event Friday after lobbying U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant them visas.
According to Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, who hosted the event, their visas will remain active for the next 10 years.
About 500 people from Cedillo’s Council District 1 waited for hours with flowers and welcoming signs at the Graff Lab in the heart of Pico Union. The families came from the Mexican states of Nayarit, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Morelos, Jalisco and Mexico City.
“Although today is a joyous day, and we get to reunify 50 families, I am emotional especially when reminded of the magnitude of how our greater Latino community in Los Angeles and the United States is continuously jeopardized,” Cedillo said.
Cedillo referenced the City Council’s vote on Wednesday to approve placing a permanent supportive housing project for homeless people on land used as a therapeutic playground by El Centro del Pueblo in Echo Park, a nonprofit organization that gives youth a safe space and provides gang intervention and therapy services. The action was strongly opposed by the nonprofit, although supporters said El Centro will be able to continue its work.
“Earlier this week, our Latino community was forced to give up their efforts to provide the best care for their children for misguided attempts to solve the housing crisis,” Cedillo said. “Today, we witness first-hand the consequences of having a broken immigration system in the United States, one that keeps families apart, in some cases for over 20 years.”
El Centro is not located in the district Cedillo represents, but he said more than 60% of its clients reside in his district.
During the Wednesday council meeting, Cedillo compared the land-use change to federal policies that separate migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexican border, as it would deprive the children of mental health services. He called it “Trumpian.”
“It is difficult to see how our people are attacked on a daily basis, even here, in our own city,” Cedillo said. “Our community will not take it, not here in the city and not in this nation where there are still 11 million people waiting for their chance to reunify with their families and where our people are continuously being demonized by the federal government. Today’s reunification serves as a window of hope for our people, that we are doing good things and we are continuing to do great things for our people.”
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