Thursday, May 19, 2011

Celebrating Justice with the Guzman family

By Kelly Miller
Witness for Peace Intern

Pedro, Emily and Logan Guzman have reason to celebrate today. And all the Witness for Peace supporters from across the country that have stood up for the Guzman family should celebrate as well.

After over a year and a half spent in Lumpkin, Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center, Pedro is home. On May 16, after three tense hours of testimony and deliberation in Pedro’s final court hearing, the judge ruled in Pedro’s favor. Yesterday Pedro finally drove home to North Carolina and walked in his front door.

The last 20 months have not been easy for the Guzman family. When Pedro was detained by ICE in September 2009 because he failed to appear in immigration court (immigration officials had sent the notice to the wrong address), the family had no idea what a rocky journey awaited them: physical separation, immense legal fees and psychological trauma have all been painful realities of the family’s struggle with the U.S. immigration system. To read more about the Guzman’s story, click here.

However, this week the journey reached its end. According to Pedro’s wife Emily, the judge granted Pedro relief on two grounds—deportation would result in “extreme hardship” for the family and evidence proved Pedro’s “good moral character.” In an email to friends, family and supporters Emily wrote that, “we sobbed” when hearing the judge pass down the verdict.

“Justice has finally been served. PEDRO IS FREE!!!!!!” wrote Emily.

The ruling is a victory for Logan, Emily and Pedro as well as for all proponents of U.S. immigration reform. However, there are still tens of thousands of immigrants detained throughout the U.S. that more likely to end up being deported, rather than reunited with their families.

"There’s so much money they make from us, but they’re not investing any money in detainees," said Pedro Guzman of conditions in the for-profit detention center that held him for 20 months. "The treatment you get is like you’re an animal. I have two dogs, and I treat my dogs much better than the detainees are treated in there."

To read more about the Guzman’s story as well as the reality of life in corporate detention centers, read our article in Witness for Peace’s Winter 2011 newsletter Solidaridad.

We will not rest until unjust detentions and inhumane conditions in detentions centers stop. We will continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform. However, for the moment, we all have reason to rejoice.

“It is so incredibly amazing to be [home] with [Pedro] right now and to see him with Logan,” says Emily. “Logan is the happiest boy on the planet and keeps saying, ‘I am so happy you are home! I feel like I'm dreaming!’

For this reunited family and for the renewed dedication they inspire in us, we are grateful.

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