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Supporters march to keep dad from being deported

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

The last thing Ricardo Ramos wants is to be deported on his daughter’s twelfth birthday.

Neither do 150 or so supporters who got up before dawn and participated in a 20-mile march Monday through suburban Cleveland to help his cause. Their aim—to draw attention to the situation so someone of influence would help stop federal immigration officials from

sending him back to México, while breaking up another Ohio family of Latino descent. Friends and supporters from Akron, Lorain, Painesville, and Toledo joined the pilgrimage along its route.

Marchers, who referred to the event as a pilgrimage, even carried a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary, the Mother of God and patroness of all México, on their 8-hour trek from the Great Lakes Mall in Mentor to St. Casimir Church in Cleveland, where supporters prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Polish Madonna.

“We are very determined,” said Veronica Dahlberg, executive director of HOLA, a Northeast-Ohio based grassroots Latino organization focusing on Latino outreach, advocacy, and community organizing which helped to organize the procession. “We needed a game-changer.”

Ramos was due to leave the country Jan. 1, but received a two-week reprieve due to the efforts of Congressional representatives Marcy Kaptur and David Joyce. But Ramos was still due to board a bus for México on Jan. 16, the same day his daughter Michelle will turn 12 years old. He must leave under what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) calls “voluntary departure.”

Ramos was pulled over by local police, who found he was driving without a license and referred to ICE. The married father of three U.S. citizen children, derisively referred to by immigration opponents as “anchor babies,” has worked at Lake County nurseries for 16 years. The family resides at a Perry Twp. mobile home park. Ramos recently picked up a second job at a local restaurant to help the family make ends meet.

“The community is fed up with the family separations and we’re just basically being ignored by our elected officials and people in power who have the ability to do something to keep the government from destroying our families,” said Ms. Dahlberg. “They just continue to live in their little bubble and they’re not hearing our pleas for help at all.”

The Ramos family was “adopted” just before Christmas by the St. Casimir parish, which began praying weekly for a miracle to intervene in the situation. The parish itself, which was closed in 2009 by the Cleveland Catholic diocese and whose parishioners are mostly of Polish descent, was reopened after three years of vigils, appeals, and prayers.

Some St. Casimir parishioners called that a miracle, citing the intercession of the Madonna of Czestochowa—a belief that resonates with Latinos who share their own strong Catholic-based tradition of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

The Cleveland-area Latino community also has rallied around Ramos and his family, because dozens of other workers in Lake County also could face deportation this year.

“He’s a great guy. He’s a friend. He’s a colleague,” said Ms. Dahlberg. “He’s part of our organization’s leadership committee. He went twice to North Carolina with FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) to support that group in its organizing of the tobacco workers. He’s lived in Lake County for 16 years, a taxpayer and father.”

Immigration is expected to be revived as a hot-button political issue this year, as members of Congress face an important mid-term election. The filing deadline for upstart Congressional candidates is Feb. 5 in Ohio—and House Republicans are just weeks away from releasing a political white paper on immigration reform. The issue is stalled without a House vote, following passage of an immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate.

HOLA has made the story of Ramos a rallying cry for its membership and supporters of immigration reform. Marisela Lomeli of Painesville led Monday’s walk, after recently telling reporters her personal story of suffering two years ago, when her husband and brother also were deported two years ago following a routine traffic stop. 

Marisela came to the U.S. 25 years ago with her husband and family, making a life state-side with their three children.

“My husband was the best person in my life. Nobody ever had any problems with us.  He was a good man,” she said during a conference call to promote the Ramos pilgrimage.

After some time, David Lomeli and Salvador Montes, a father of four, attempted to return to their homes and families. They walked over 40 miles in the desert after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, but ultimately succumbed to the elements. Both men died of heat exposure and dehydration.

According to the HOLA website, “the separation and permanent ban from re-entry was too much to bear, so they braved the harsh conditions to cross the desert to reunite with their families.”

However, the partially decomposed remains of Lomeli were found in the Arizona desert months later.  Last May, the skeletal remains of Montes were finally positively identified through dental records. The remains were sent to his family in Ohio to be buried.

“I feel so dead in my life, by myself,” Marisela told reporters about the loss of her husband and brother. “This is not my dream in the U.S. This is my nightmare.”

HOLA’s leaders contend that in this case, US-America’s lack of immigration reform is directly responsible for leaving six children fatherless.

“The community that HOLA represents is suffering enormous pain and hardships. The family is the very core of humanity—and our broken immigration law is causing sacred bonds to be ripped apart. We can only guess what the long term repercussions are for the Latino community. But I already see the devastation in our weekly meetings,” wrote Ms. Dahlberg in an open letter on the HOLA website.

Friends and supporters of Ramos will continue praying for an intervention of some sort. Ramos has said he will obey the law if he is forced to leave.

“I love him so much that I don't want him to go to México,” 7-year-old Ricardo Ramos, Jr. said of his father in a story that aired just after Christmas on Cleveland television station WEWS.

“I don't know how it’s going to be without my dad here,” echoed his daughter Michelle Ramos as she wiped away tears. “He's very important to this family.”

Ramos has been assured he won’t be arrested by ICE agents, but will be expected to voluntarily board a bus bound for Mexico by week’s end. Friends vow to continue working for an intervention allowing him to return to his family if he does have to leave for México.

Since President Barack Obama took office, more than 1.9 million people have been deported from the U.S. According to Cleveland-area media reports, at least 25 other families in the Painesville area face the same fate in 2014.

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/14/14 18:45:34 -0800.




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