The deportation of a San Jose State University student’s mother to Mexico less than 48 hours after a private bill to keep her in the U.S. was introduced has sparked criticism from immigration advocates.
Student advocates from San Jose State University marched Thursday to protest the deportation as part of May Day demonstrations, calling on President Barack Obama to stop deportations and for Congress to enact humane immigration reform.
San Jose State aerospace engineering student David Gonzalez found out that his mother, Antonia Aguilar, had been deported when she called him from Tijuana on Wednesday.
“She called me saying they had already sent her to Tijuana,” Gonzales said.
Gonzalez joined hundreds during Thursday's march at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose.
"I'm doing it for my 12-year-old brother," he said. "He deserves to grow up with the guidance of his mother. Every kid deserves to grow up with their family."
Aguilar left California three years ago to see her dying father and soon found herself trapped in Mexico, unable to return to her family in San Jose.
In March, when she took the first steps toward home as part of the "Bring Them Home" campaign - where hundreds of undocumented Mexicans applied for asylum – she was detained.
Gonzales met with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) – the top Democrat in the House for the immigration sub-committee – when she was in San Jose to discuss immigration reform, requesting her to introduce a private bill to help his mother.
While a private bill is extremely rare and can’t change immigration law, it can provide individual relief if it gets passed by the House and the Senate, stopping the deportation and granting the individual legal permanent status.
But in Aguilar’s case, she was deported even before lawmakers had a chance to weigh in on the bill. Immigration and Law Enforcement officials (ICE) confirmed the deportation to Lofgren’s office Wednesday.
“[David] now faces the daunting task of pursuing his rigorous course of study while also having to raise his younger brother and sister because his mother is gone,” Lofgren said. “Like any mother, she wants and needs to be with her children.”
Lofgren said that Aguilar’s story is not unique.
“Our dysfunctional immigration system continues to rip families apart, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents,” Lofgren said. “I urge the administration to review policies so that parents whose only offense is an effort to step up to their parental responsibilities are no longer treated as priorities for enforcement.”
Multiple May Day rallies calling for an end to deportation and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants took place across the Bay Area Thursday.
The bill’s supporters said that Lofgren's private bill would help send a strong message about the broken immigration system.
“[The deportation] is a tragic and horrific thing for David's family,” said Cesar Juarez, a member of Student Advocates for Higher Education at SJSU. “It’s hard to believe that the Obama administration would do such an inhumane thing, especially when there’s so much going on about immigration to be humane and deportation to be humane. I guess it’s all talk and no action.”
For more information on SAHE's efforts to bring Antonia Aguilar back to the U.S., visit their website.
NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro contributed to this report.