As politicians await the release of an immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate this week, Berkeley fourth-grader Rodrigo Guzman sits in his grandmother’s house in Mexico waiting to be told he can return to the United States.
When Rodrigo and his parents were told they would not be allowed to return to the United States after a winter break visit to Mexico because they had failed to renew their visas, his classmates in Berkeley launched a campaign and circulated a petition to bring him home.
Berkeley parent Mable Yee and Rodrigo’s friends have been attending community events, including a Berkeley forum on immigration reform last Thursday, to raise awareness of their friend’s situation. Additionally, six of Rodrigo’s friends plan to travel to Washington, D.C., in May or June — at the invitation of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — to tell politicians about their friend’s plight.
“Stories like Rodrigo’s remind us of just how broken our immigration system is,” Lee said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing my fight on behalf of all of my constituents for a comprehensive immigration policy.”
In preparation for their trip to Washington, where they hope to talk with influential political figures, the kids have been raising money by selling T-shirts, hosting games and seeking donations.
“We think that the immigration law isn’t fair,” said fourth-grader Kaiya Daniels, who attends Jefferson Elementary School with Rodrigo. “We want our friend to come back.”
Advocacy group National Latino Children’s Institute is working with the kids to secure an audience for the children at the national level.
“It’s an opportunity to visibly look into immigration,” said the institute’s executive director, Josephine Garza. “We have hopes that something will come out of this that will be positive.”
The planned trip is particularly timely, given the expected release of an immigration reform bill by a Senate committee within the next few days and another from the House next week, Garza said.
“This hit just at the right time with what’s happening now,” Garza said. “They’re really coming to a point where both sides are going to have to make some kind of concessions.”
For Rodrigo and his family, who are stuck in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the impending immigration reform is not a matter of policy but rather something that will directly impact their future.
Additionally, while Rodrigo’s parents, Javier Guzman and Reyna Mayida, both had jobs in Berkeley, the two have struggled to find work in Mexico. However, the three have been overcome with happiness at the outpouring of support they have received from the Berkeley community.
“I have some things to say, but it’s not about the situation — it’s about how thankful I am,” Rodrigo said. “I’m thankful to my friends for all they’re doing.”