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CO Groups Call on Obama to End Deportation

Photo: High school senior Jaime Leon Riva is in custody, facing deportation to El Salvador. Courtesy: American Friends Service Committee
March 31. 2014
Photo: High school senior Jaime Leon Riva is in custody, facing deportation to El Salvador. Courtesy: American Friends Service Committee

AURORA, Colo. - This Saturday, people in Colorado will join thousands of others at rallies in cities across the country to demand that President Obama end deportations. Family and friends of Jaime Leon Riva, a high school senior from Dillon, Colo., hope help comes in time for him. The El Salvador-born teen is currently being held at a detention facility in Aurora, preparing for deportation.

According to Sophia Clark, an organizer with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Riva was coerced into signing an agreement when he immigrated at age 10 that said he would leave the country.

"He may not have even understood what he was signing, and as a result of that he has an order of deportation that has just been pending for all these years," Clark said. "And then also he has a really powerful story of change and growth and redemption."

Earlier this month, President Obama announced the need for a review of deportation practices. During his presidency, some 2 million people have been deported, more than under any other presidential administration in U.S. history. A large majority, 97 percent, of those people were from the Latin American or Caribbean communities.

Jennifer Piper, interfaith organizing director for the American Friends Service Committee, said the practice of deportation is destructive to the entire community.

"Every single deportation has these types of ripple effects across our community," she said. "They don't just impact that person and their family, but they also impact the community, the town and the state. "

Riva has grown up in Colorado and, until he was taken into custody on March 5, was working with at-risk youth after turning his own life around. Sophia Clark said the teen is anxious to be released to his family in the U.S., since he has no more family remaining in El Salvador.

"It's clear that he is really a role model in the ways that he's been so strong in creating a better future for himself, and he's a role model to younger kids," she said. "All of the work he's done is basically being shut down."

The "Not One More" event will be Saturday, April 5, at Civic Center Park in Denver.

More information on Saturday's event can be found at AFSC.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - CO