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Old 10-20-2009, 11:04 AM
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Default Family fighting to remain in U.S.

Family fighting to remain in U.S.

October 13, 2009

The Press-Enterprise

Until last week, Whitney Serrano, a first-year student at Summit High School in Fontana, was dreaming about going to college to study veterinary medicine. Now Whitney, 14, is worried her college dreams will be crushed.

Her illegal-immigrant parents on Oct. 6 were ordered to leave the United States within 60 days. The U.S.-born Whitney cannot imagine living in Mexico, a country she has visited only twice.

"This is the only life I've known since I was born," the Bloomington girl said Tuesday after a San Bernardino immigration-reform rally. "Going to Mexico would change everything. I'd have to start over again."

The San Bernardino rally was part of a nationwide series of rallies Tuesday that coincided with a Washington, D.C., immigration-reform demonstration at which Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., outlined the main components of an immigration bill he plans to introduce later this fall.

Gutierrez proposed a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, increased priority on keeping families together and a strengthening of border security.

As president, George W. Bush twice failed to get Congress to pass similar legislation. President Barack Obama said he does not expect action on immigration-reform legislation before 2010.

The San Bernardino rally urged the Obama administration to stop deportations of families. Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency is carrying out immigration courts' orders.

"This administration has stated that immigration reform is something it strongly supports," Kice said. "Until that happens, our responsibility is to enforce the laws on the books."

Whitney's mother, Jennifer Serrano, said ICE agents used their cars to block her as she was driving Whitney and her other daughter, also named Jennifer, to school early Oct. 6. Serrano, 35, said she came to the United States at age 18 and she and her husband, Alejandro, have no home in Mexico to return to.

"This is my country now, even if my country doesn't want me and is throwing me out." Serrano said. "I want to fight until the end. I hope God opens up the hearts and minds of people in Congress and the president and they give us an opportunity to stay in this country."

The younger Jennifer, 16, a senior at Summit High, is busy filling out college application forms. But she doesn't know if she should bother sending them in.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which supports stricter immigration laws, said the girls' predicament is their parents' fault.

"They knew perfectly well what they were doing," Krikorian said by phone. "They knew if they had children, the children might have to go back with them if they got caught. They're morally responsible for the consequences."

Krikorian said that, as U.S. citizens, the Serrano girls have a right to stay in the United States with friends or relatives, or they can return to the United States as adults. It is the parents' decision to take them with them to Mexico.

"They're going to a country they're not familiar with and haven't lived in?" Krikorian said. "Isn't that what their parents did when they came to the United States?"

At the San Bernardino rally, the Rev. David Starr, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church in San Bernardino, told about two dozen people that current immigration laws do not reflect American values. Starr cited verses from the Bible and Quran about helping strangers in need and said, "When the laws of a country go against the laws of God, the laws of God prevail."
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