NEW YORK—Unions, elected officials and community members rallied with Yahaira Burgos today in Downtown Manhattan to call for the release of her husband Juan Vivares, who was detained this morning after a check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a meeting at their offices at 26 Federal Plaza.
Yahaira, a Manhattan doorwoman, and her lawyer say her husband, who was recently denied his asylum claim based on a technical issue, should be allowed to stay in the country and have filed a stay against his deportation. Juan was forced to flee Colombia in 2011 due to political violence and now he and his wife also fear for his safety if he’s forced to return.
“I am fighthing to keep my family together,” Yahaira said. “This is completely unfair that they will rip our family apart and put our family in jeopardy. I work nights and my husband works during the day; we take turns taking care of our baby. We were so happy we both have good jobs and we were very close to buying a house and achieving the American Dream. Now we are facing a nightmare.”
The couple have a young son and Juan, an electrician, cares for their baby during Yahaira’s overnight shifts at a building on the Upper East Side. Yahaira and her son are both US citizens.
“We are heartbroken by this case and what it means for Yahaira, Juan and their son,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “Unfortunately this story is all too familiar as the Trump administration speeds up deportations in response to made up, fake problems. These draconian policies in the interest of short-term, cynical political gain are permanently damaging too many children and families, just like this one. There are thousands of immigrants just like Juan out there who are contributing more to their communities and to our shared American dream than the cold-hearted, xenophobic members of the Trump administration.”
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer, Ben Kallos, Carlos Menchaca, Mark Levine, Margaret Chin, Ydanis Rodriguez joined the rally to demand Juan’s release.
“Juan Vivares, and his wife Yahaira Burgos, have been productive and upstanding members of the New York City community for years. To tear this law-abiding family apart is not only cruel – it is injust. We will fight this deportation,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I stand with Juan and Yahaira, and they have the full support of 32BJ, New York City elected officials, and community allies behind them as well. We cannot allow the inhumane immigration policies of this administration hurt the people of our City.”
32BJ and its allies are fighting to keep families like this one together. Community allies including New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, African Communities Together, NY Taxi Workers Alliance, UNITE Here Local 100, American Friends Service Committee, Black Alliance for Just Immigration rallied today to fight for Juan and Yahaira and to demand an end to the accelerated detentions and deportations that are tearing families apart.
“We’re here today to stand up for Yaharia Burgos, her husband Juan Vivares, and their young son. But we’re also here to send a message. Tearing families apart is wrong. It doesn’t make us safer—it makes us weaker. This is an example of Washington working to shred not just American values, but also the fabric of our City. We all must work together to stand up for who we are as a nation – and that means speaking out against backwards immigration policies,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
“Juan and Yahaira’s case is an example of just how broken and inhumane our current immigration system is,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “As Donald Trump attempts to tear more families apart, we as a community must fight and resist these efforts. I stand with my colleagues and 32BJ in asking for justice and fairness in this case, and to allow Juan to reunite with his wife and child.”
“Juan and Yaharia’s case shows how warped our immigration enforcement has become,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “There is no reason, beyond cruelty and hatred, to break up a family in order to send someone back to violence and persecution, particularly as their visa application is pending. ICE should immediately release Juan and return to its policy of targeting violent criminals, instead of needlessly destroying families.”
“Our immigration system is based on the notion of reuniting families of American citizens. Juan Vivares should be released to his family while USCIS is processing his immigrant petition, and I have written letters to USCIS and ICE regarding this matter.” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “ICE should not be separating Mr. Vivares from his American family while his I-130 application is being processed. I am calling on ICE to release Mr. Vivares so he may reunite with his wife and 14 month-old son. I am so pleased that 32BJ is standing up for its member and championing this cause.”
“For generations the United States has been a beacon to the world, and people around the world facing violence and oppression have been welcomed to build new lives here,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Juan Vivares is an asylum-seeker, a husband, a father, and a New Yorker. There is no public interest served by detaining or deporting him. The way immigration enforcement is being turned into a weapon of political cruelty is un-American, and it will make us all less safe.”
“The Trump administration’s thirst for breaking up families all over our country in order to fulfill his ill-advised campaign promise of deporting millions of people will not make America safer, better or stronger,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, District 5, where Yaharia Burgos works. “Juan Vivares should be released immediately and allowed to stay here with his wife and baby. Families belong together and here in New York City, we are going to do everything possible to keep it that way. Service workers like Yaharia Burgos are valued members of the East Side community, and we stand together against Trump’s inhumane immigration policies.”
“Today is frightening example of how President Trump’s divisive immigration policies being are already having a painfully real effect on innocent families across the country, and sadly here today, in New York,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “It is shameful that federal officials have detained and plan to deport such a hardworking, taxpaying electrician, who is only guilty of fleeing political violence in his country. I’m proud to stand with 32BJ SEIU and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, to show Washington that we will not sit idly by while innocent families are torn apart. ”
“Juan and his family are hardworking, taxpayers with a bright future as homeowners,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. They are contributing members of our community and have earned the opportunity to remain in the U.S. as a family. Deporting this father now would tear apart a beautiful family, put him back in danger, and do away with any opportunity they had at achieving the American dream. New York City is great because of hardworking men like Juan who keep our economy and our city running, and he deserves the protection of the U.S., not our persecution.”
With more than 163,000 members, including more than 80,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is one of the largest unions representing immigrant workers in the country.