On Thursday, April 28th, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) joined over 1,200 OCO, CCISCO, BOCA and COR leaders to highlight immigrant testimonies and to call on President Obama to halt unnecessary deportations which tear families apart.The faith community in the East Bay came together for a common cause.

“The purpose of our meeting tonight is to shed light on the crisis affecting our communities,” said OCO Co-Chair Fr. Jesus Nieto, “The thousands of families that have been separated due to unnecessary deportations in California and across the country, as well as the lack of a federal solution to our broken immigration system, has created this crisis—it is time we unite together to ask President Obama for some relief.”

There was heart wrenching testimonies from leaders like CCISCO leader Bianca Rojo, which underscored the suffering that is caused when families are broken up.  Rojo, saw both her parents deported at 15.  “I had to become the mother and the father for my younger brother, we moved from place to place, sometimes we didn’t even have any food to eat.”

Congressman Gutierrez heard the testimonies from African, Korean and Latino leaders and applauded their bravery for telling their stories at the risk of deportation. “The current political climate in Washington D.C. has prevented immigration reform to pass. It is time that President Obama keep his promise, it is time to provide some administrative relief, he has the power to do it,” said Gutierrez.

Congressman Gutierrez made Oakland one of his 20 stops across the country for the “Change Takes Courage” tour. The tour is designed to gather signatures on a petition to President Obama asking that he use powers already available to him under existing law to spare certain immigrants — those with deep equities in the United States and without a criminal history — from deportation.

According to Department of Homeland Security, half of the immigrants deported were not convicted of a crime.  This troubling statistic has created fear within immigrant communities and has put to question President Obama’s campaign promise of overhauling the system.

“We want to put an end to the deportations which separate hard working families, to stop the deportation of students who only wish to contribute to our great nation, and stop deportations which destroy our communities and leave them paralyzed,” said Pastor Michael McBride from BOCA, “We want respect and dignity, and for that reason we come together to let everyone know that our immigrant communities are flesh and blood.  This is what our faith teaches us.”

The event was organized by PICO East Bay which includes: OCO-Oakland Community Organizations, BOCA-Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, CCISCO-Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, and COR-Congregations Organizing for Renewal.