If you aren’t a political junkie who has tuned in to watch every last minute of the Democratic National Convention this week, there’s a lot that was totally fine for you to have missed. But we think everyone, especially moms and dads, should take two minutes to watch the video starring 11-year-old Estela Juarez that aired on Wednesday night. The girl, whose mother was deported to Mexico in 2018, helps us all put a face and a very articulate voice to a daily tragedy that we should never stop thinking about: the separation of children from their parents due to harsh U.S. immigration policies.
“My mom is my best friend,” Juarez said in a letter she read aloud, addressed to Donald Trump. “She came to America as a teenager over 20 years ago, without papers, in search of a better life. She married my dad, who served our country as a marine in South America, Africa, and Iraq. My mom worked hard and paid taxes, and the Obama administration told her she could stay.”
The case of Juarez’s mother Alejandra Juarez was widely publicized because of her husband Temo Juarez’s military status. She also was one of the subjects of the Selena Gomez-produced Netflix documentary series Living Undocumented.
“My dad thought you would protect military families, so he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President,” Estela continued. “He says he won’t vote for you again, after what you did to our family. Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart.”
The Juarezes were just one of many military families separated, just like the many nonmilitary families, by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. When Alejandra Juarez tried to enter the country at age 18, she was questioned by border officials who refused to allow her a translator or a lawyer before making her sign documents that waived her rights to become a legal resident or citizen. (This was, by the way, under the Clinton administration, in case you thought being crappy to immigrants was a Trump invention.) A traffic stop in 2013 brought her to the attention of ICE once more, marking her as a low priority for deportation. Her re-entry into this country after that first 1998 stop classified her as a criminal. When Trump came into office in 2017, “low-priority” immigrants like Juarez were moved back to the top of the list.
“Now my mom is gone, and she’s been taken from us for no reason at all,” Estela said in her letter to Trump. “Every day that passes, you deport more moms and dads, and take them away from kids like me. You separate thousands of children from their parents, and you put them in cages. Some of those kids are now orphans because of you.”
The video showed painful videos, both of Alejandra’s deportation and of the children who were detained in cages after crossing the border with their families. For her part, Estela went back to Mexico with her mother at first, before moving back to her home in Florida to live with her older sister and father this June, according to Buzzfeed News.
“Mr. President, my mom is the wife of a proud American marine and a mother of two American children,” Estela concluded. “We are American families. We need a president who will bring people together. Not tear them apart.”
While fighting to protect immigrants, you can also follow these celebrity parents’ example and teach your children about racism early.