On June 20, above all of the noise of Union Square, one man’s voice can be heard clearly: this man is Roxroy Salmon. He is an organizer for Families for Freedom, a group dedicated to fighting the senseless deportation of non-citizens, some even with Green Cards, who have families comprised, in part, of United States citizens. Salmon and FFF supporters have gathered for a vigil in Union Square to garner public support for HR 182, the Children Citizens Protection Act. The bill would grant judges the right to take the best interest of children who are U.S. citizens into consideration when making a determination whether or not to deport their parents. Its passage would allow for a more sympathetic and rational execution of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, passed in 1996, in the wake of the first World Trade Center bombing. “I’m not a criminal,” Salmon tells the crowd, which, despite thickening rain and a faltering PA system, has swelled to several dozen. “They stereotype us as criminals…I’m no alien.” Salmon himself currently faces the possibility of separation from his children and deportation to Jamaica, his country of origin, where he has not lived for thirty years.
HR 182 is currently championed by Congressman Jose Serrano and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, each of whom dispatched personal messages of support to the vigil and guaranteed they would continue the fight in Washington D.C. John Liu, City Councilman in Queens, makes a personal appearance to reassert his support for the bill and promise that the “fight will continue” until families that face separation find justice. But without a favorable court ruling, Salmon may never get to celebrate its passage on United States soil.
The decision Salmon and his family anxiously awaits—whether or not his request for deferred action will be approved—will be handed down July 7th. The approval of his request would be him precious time to continue the fight for the passage of HR 182. “January of this year we applied for deferred action and were denied in three days,” he says. “That means they never even looked at our papers, so we are asking them again to reconsider the deferred action.” If his request is not approved an order of deportation, possibly immediate, could be drafted in its place.
FFF and other immigrant advocacy groups, as well as individuals saddened and moved to action by Salmon’s plight express their solidarity through a rotational fast. Since early March, those groups and individuals have fasted everyday, each signing up for one or more days each week. They also maintain a blog where they can share their experiences and thoughts on the fast. “Jesus said,” says Salmon, “when there is an obstacle, you need to fast and pray […] and you know with fasting, it makes changes and brings changes.”
“A separation of families is not right, taking away the mother or the father from the children. That’s not civilized, that’s disgraceful. That’s dehumanizing,” he says after the crowd disperses into Union Square with flyers in hand to educate anyone willing to listen. “Children need their families to stay together […] because sometimes the children will turn to crime or [fall into] poverty.”
In 2001, utilizing a Clinton era initiative to legitimize the status of those here illegally, Salmon’s mother—as he was the last of her children without legal status—applied for his adjustment. The initial request went unanswered and the first few attempts at find out why were dead ends. After multiple requests and inquiries of his own and by Congressman Ed Towns’s office on his behalf, it seemed like Salmon was going to get his interview, seemingly the last step in the process of status adjustment. But while he was waiting for a date to appear with his lawyer for an interview in 2006 he received notice in the mail that he had to appear for deportation proceedings. Thereafter began his endless trips to and from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and hearings in Manhattan. These appointments now consume much of Salmon’s life.
“Sometimes they make you report three times to ICE, you have to go in three times a week. You have no time to be a family, because you always have to be on the move, and the most important thing, I’m not able to work to support my family,” he says. It seems as if the less time he has until the ruling on his deferment, the more tenaciously he fights.
He does not say exactly what he will do if he is deported to Jamaica. I can only imagine he would fight.
Information about Salmon’s fast can be found at http://justiceisfreedom.wordpress.com/. To support Families For Freedom go to http://familiesforfreedom.org/index.html, or sign the online petition to support the Children Citizen Protection Act at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/familiesforfreedom/
ContributorCyrus C. Morgan
Cyrus C. Morgan lives, writes, and surfs in New York.