Eighteen-year-old Lorena Carrizo stood outside the Suffolk County House of Correction on Saturday afternoon, crying as a wall separated her from her stepfather, Josue Martinez, who was being detained inside by US Immigration Customs Enforcement.
Her mother, Norma Velazquez, of Fitchburg, looked on. She had hoped Martinez would be released in time for Father’s Day — which is also the fourth birthday of their son, Luiz — but that did not happen.
“They make the kids suffer more than the parents,” she said, gathered with more than 50 immigration reform activists outside the facility.
The group rallied as part of a nationwide effort to urge the Obama administration to halt deportations and stop separating families as Congress considers immigration legislation that could allow some to stay.
Rallies are being held around the country this weekend to commemorate Father’s Day and the families who are separated by deportation, organizers said.
“This is really an underground crisis that is happening with families being torn apart,” said Franklin Soults, communications director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “We want Congress and the Senate not to forget that real people are being affected by this and real families are being destroyed.”
Velazquez said her husband, who is in the country illegally, was driving without a license when he was pulled over with no explanation in early March and sent to the detention center. Since then, she said, she has struggled to explain to her younger children where their father is.
Carrizo, the oldest of the siblings, will start school at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the fall. Martinez was in the detention center when he found out she had been accepted.
She said her family will spend Father’s Day waiting by the phone for him to call.
“It hurts,” she said between tears. “I feel like there is no meaning in life without him.”
More than 400,000 immigrants were deported from the United States last year, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Magallela Morales’s husband was deported four years ago, leaving her to raise two young boys by herself in Springfield. She wakes up at 4 a.m. and drops her kids off at day care before heading out to work in the tobacco fields of Western Massachusetts.
“It is very hard on your own,” she said.
Morales came with Just Communities of Western Massachusetts, one of the many groups that helped organize the event, including the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, the New England Coalition for Keeping Families Together, and the Irish International Immigrant Center.
“We came out here as a community because this is a broken system,” said Bliss Requa-Trautz, an organizer with Just Communities of Western Massachusetts.