By Whitney Smith, Development Coordinator
Every other Tuesday, you’ll find Susana Jerez, our Immigrant Welcome Center Director, and myself scrambling around the office, cutting fliers, making sandwiches, writing agendas, and getting everything ready for six o’clock pm.
Why? Because every other Tuesday we help convene Familias Unidas.
We’re a group of individuals from the Latin American Coalition, Action NC, Enlace Hispano, and the community — fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, Latinos, non-Latinos — who came together after a rally for Gabino Sanchez (an undocumented immigrant) to figure out how we could support families going through deportation. We had no idea where or how to start, but we gathered anyway. Since that first afternoon we’ve met four times, and in that time we started a support group for families, got trained on how to recruit new people to our little group, planned our first campaign, and came up with a name: Familias Unidas.
A guy named Jose Luis Zarco has been to three of the four meetings. The first meeting he came to he sat with his arms crossed and didn’t say much. He’s kind of a scruffy guy with a stern face and tattoos, and to be honest some of us thought he was a little scary. But then he told his story.
While he was talking, mostly about his three children, his shoulders relaxed a bit, his arms unfolded, and his face became smooth. You could literally see him let go of the walls, his protection, as he put himself on display for everyone to see. In that moment he joined our family.
Now Familias Unidas is trying to help Jose stay in the U.S. where he belongs, where he has made a life for himself and his family. His next court date is in October and he is our first campaign.
One more thing: I’d like to invite you to join our family.
We’re not the most organized bunch, we don’t have a leader and most of us have little to no experience with the path we’re walking. But we gather on Tuesdays knowing for sure that what we can do together is infinitely greater than what we can accomplish on our own. We’re letting go of our walls, and slowly learning how to be part of a community, together. I hope you will join us.
For more info about Familias Unidas, contact Whitney at the Latin American Coalition via email or at 704-941-2544.