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#HugoStaysHome ahs freshman fights to keep father in the United States

Published on: December 30, 2020

“It was really [...] heart[warming] to see how people were helping y’know. And I felt like I wasn’t alone because I saw other families talk about their story and it was really similar to mine [...] I felt like I had hope,” recalled freshman Hulissa Aguilar when she saw a rally outside of the jail her father was being held back in 2017.

In Sept. 2020, Hugo learned about his deportation which was filed because of his return to the United States after being deported back in 2007. This would be his second time under the deportation process. For Hulissa, this would be the second time that her family was in danger of separation. Only this time, Hulissa was now much older, more knowledgeable about the process, and had the help of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.

Under the advice of Hugo’s lawyer, the Aguilars have been using the community to petition for her father to stay in the United States. One way they have been doing this is through Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, an advocacy group that aims to keep families from being broken up by I.C.E.(Immigration and Customs Enforcement.) Last year, they helped to keep 20 families and 3 individuals here in Northern California alone.

A Timeline of Hugo Aguilar's Case

Gala King, is a Regional Faith Organizer in the Northern California branch of the organization. She explained that they previously held monthly vigils outside of immigration detention centers such as West County Detention Center and now holds vigils outside of the I.C.E. Processing Center in San Francisco. In addition, Interfaith provides asylum and bonds for those in danger of deportation and those who have come out of detention; as well as hold campaigns for families.

“There have been instances where someone’s in detention, we help them raise their bond money and we help them find housing and accompaniment once they have been released,” said King.

To save their family, Interfaith and the Aguilars collected signatures and letters of support from the public to send to the I.C.E center in San Francisco in Oct. The head of I.C.E, David Jennings, has the power of prosecutorial discretion or the power to excuse a person from being deported. However, when Hugo and Hulissa along with their party consisting of Hugo’s sister, coworkers, and representatives of Interfaith arrived, they were denied entry to the building.

Photos Courtesy of Hulissa Aguilar

“They wouldn’t answer the phone when we were trying to make an appointment ‘cos they said appointment only. And they wouldn’t even let me in the bathroom! [...] why are they doing a lot y'know? My dad was calling all morning [...] and I felt like they were doing that on purpose,” said Hulissa. “But we did see people coming in and out [of the building but were not entirely sure if those people had appointments].”

King also suspects that the reason why they were not being allowed into the building was because I.C.E. was simply not interested.

“We tried to get on the phone to make an appointment and we weren’t successful. They said you can’t just go in, you need to be escorted. [...] they had a lot of reasons, a lot of excuses why they wouldn’t let Hugo deliver the letters and petition. We were not completely surprised. [...] We ended up mailing it,” said King.

After that experience, Hugo was declined for prosecutorial discretion and the family filed for I-246 in Nov., which will allow him to extend his stay in the United States. That file has now been approved and Hugo can stay for additional six months. King asked that the public continue to share Hugo’s story after signing the petition.

“Keep sharing it in your social media networks. Also lifting up Hulissa’s video. She’s such an incredible speaker, [...] just her courage can really inspire others to either take action on behalf of her family or action on behalf of other people’s situations since we know hundreds of people are impacted by [deportation],” said King. She also added, “If you have creative ideas of how you may want to uplift Hugo and Hulissa, I would say do it. We’d be happy to help.”

Her father’s case inspired her to pursue a career in social justice.

“I want to use my voice for a change. Before, I never really thought about life like this, like our country and all the injustices that occurs. But in my father’s case when he was detained, I started realizing that there’s so many problems that we need to fix [...] I want to get into maybe politics [...] and public speaking, organizing rallies like Interfaith,” said Hulissa.

Photos Courtesy of Hulissa Aguilar

Reporting and Article by: Alexis May Go

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Hulissa Aguilar