Kids taking immigration quest to D.C.

Casey Woods/Miami Herald/[[July 17, 2007]]/ link

With no immigration overhaul in sight in Congress, immigration advocates have joined a South Florida activist's quixotic quest to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to stop deporting the undocumented parents of American-born children.

Today, Nora Sandigo and a passel of kids -- including 8-year-old Saul Arellano, who has drawn international attention since his mother took refuge in a Chicago church last year to escape deportation -- will march on Washington. They will rally in front of Congress and the White House and stand on the steps of the Supreme Court in an effort to draw attention to the American children of illegal immigrants.

Sandigo, executive director of Sweetwater-based Fraternity, has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 600 children, arguing their right to have their parents with them outweighs the government's prerogative to deport those who violated U.S. immigration law.

...We believe the constitutional right of children to their parents outweighs the statutory rules and regulations handed down by immigration, said Donald Schlemmer, a Washington-based lawyer who helped draft the motion. ``We're not saying this is going to be an easy case, but these children have the right to have this question answered in the Supreme Court.

...Miami immigration lawyer Tammy Fox-Isicoff said the lawsuit is fundamentally flawed.

I'm sure this was motivated by the attorneys wanting to do something for people in a helpless situation, but . . . there is not a shred of legal merit to this case, she said. ``Maybe this was a last-ditch effort to get publicity for the situation.

...Sandigo nudged the sobbing boy onto the stage, where a bemused Lincoln Di­az-Balart handed him the microphone to tell his story as TV cameras rolled.

...We have a good case, and this is the best time to do it because there's no other alternative for millions of families, said Emma Lozano, head of the Chicago-based People Without Borders. ``If we don't do something, there's going to be massive deportations and separations of families.

Lozano's husband is the pastor at the church where Saul Arellano's mother, Elvira, still lives, nearly a year after she sought sanctuary there. Lozano is bringing Saul and about 100 other children to the capital by bus to march with Sandigo.

It's going to be all children, pure like a song of angels, Sandigo said. ``We want the justices to put their hand on their hearts and over their consciences and understand that this country isn't protecting the most fragile American citizens.