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November 24, 2014

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Immigration reform protest aims to reunite families, spur action

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Sandra Ramos poses with her four children in an undated photo. Ramos plans to cross the border from Tijuana to San Diego on March 13, 2014, as part of the "Bring Them Home" event in which more than 30 immigrants without approval will cross into the United States seeking residency or asylum. Three of Ramos' four children are U.S. citizens.

After a job interview Wednesday afternoon, Ana Ramos left her North Las Vegas home and drove straight to the California-Mexico border for a rendezvous with her twin sister that will probably not happen. Not right away, at least.

Today, her sister Sandra Ramos, 37, plans to cross the border from Tijuana into San Diego along with more than 30 other immigrants in an action that is both public protest and an official plea for asylum.

“I just want to be there in San Diego so if she is released, I’ll be ready to bring her back. I want her to know I’m here for her,” Ana said. “I’ll also be able to pick up the children and bring them back.”

The last time Ana saw her sister’s four kids was Christmas 2012, when they grabbed on to her and pleaded for her to take them “home” to Nevada.

Sandra and her four children have joined the “Bring Them Home” initiative organized by the National Immigrant Youth Association and other immigration reform advocates.

The first such crossing took place in July of last year when a group of young people crossed into Arizona from Mexico and turned themselves in to the Border Patrol. Thanks in part to a coordinated effort by their families and community organizations, the youths were released to their relatives in the United States.

“We aren’t doing this for any reason other than bringing families together,” Ana Ramos said. “There are children who know no other country other than this one, and they are being separated from their parents.”

Sandra Ramos came to the United States in 1999 and worked in California without legal authorization as a nanny for a cousin, according to her sister.

She moved to Las Vegas in 2002 to be with Ana, who came with family and later obtained permanent residency. Sandra met a man shortly after moving to Southern Nevada; they moved in together and had four children. All of them were born in Las Vegas and are U.S. citizens except one, who was born in Mexico while they were on vacation.

The father of Sandra’s children was brutally abusive, Ana says, more than once leaving Sandra with a swollen and bloodied face. Sandra reported the abuse to the police, and the father fled to Mexico with the daughter who was born there.

Sandra went to a shelter for battered women, and the staff there helped her apply for a U-Visa, which offers legal residency to victims of crimes who are willing to testify. While the application was pending, the father of her children said Sandra would have to come to Guadalajara if she wanted to see her child again.

Her sister advised her to wait for the U-Visa, but Sandra felt compelled to go because of the father’s violent nature. She and the three kids went to Guadalajara to find her daughter in 2011.

The older children have struggled in Mexico, Ana says. They did not initially know how to write in Spanish, and they suffered bullying in school. Sandra says she briefly stayed with the children’s father and suffered more abuse before moving to her parents' house.

Now, she wants to return and renew her visa application, for her own safety and that of her children.

Today, she will cross the border with a group of other immigrants, in the second “Bring Them Home” event of the week. On Monday, 40 people crossed and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol. After today’s crossing, another one is planned for Sunday with more than 50 people.

“The goal of the action is to reunite 250 family members,” Liliana Luna, a member of the “Bring Them Home” campaign, said in a statement. “The immigration system isn’t working. Borders have broken our families and communities. We will not wait for the government to tell us when we can reunite with our loved ones who have been deported. We are taking matters into our own hands.”

So far, the Border Patrol has been taking the undocumented immigrants into custody and releasing those with papers, such as Sandra’s three U.S.-born children. Sandra and the other immigrants will have the chance to see an immigration judge and plead their cases.

“My sister has never committed any crimes, and I hope they see that she is a good person who wants her family to be safe,” Ana said.

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