Despite prayers and pleas, Bridgeton couple is deported

Photo by Mike Walsh
Photo by Mary McCusker

Despite prayers and pleas from family and community leaders, including Bishop Dennis Sullivan, to U.S lawmakers and President Donald Trump, Oscar and Humberta Campos were compelled to report to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last Friday morning, Dec. 8, and boarded a 6:35 a.m. flight from Newark International Airport to Mexico, leaving their three children behind in South Jersey.

Business owners and active members of Bridgeton’s Parish of the Holy Cross for almost 30 years, Oscar and Humberta have built a life here for themselves and their children: Oscar, Jr., 24; Janet, 22; and Erwing, 15. The legal workers and taxpayers have kept in touch with immigration authorities, but the two were deported to Oscar’s hometown of Tamaulipas last week.

In a tearful goodbye to his children at the airport, Oscar urged them “to fight for your dreams because life continues, and you will always find good people that support you. There are a lot of good people. Don’t give your hopes up.”

“There is no distance. I will always have (you) in my heart,” he said.

Oscar and Humberta met and married in Bridgeton, after escaping difficult and harrowing lives in Mexico.

Oscar fled due to violence and poverty, hoping to make a better life for himself in the United States. For Humberta, one night in Mexico changed her life, after a local drug cartel invaded her family’s home and killed her father, a police officer. She was kidnapped and raped by the cartel and, days later, was able to break free from the gang. She soon made her way to America.

On Dec. 6, Bishop Sullivan joined the Campos and several dozen supporters in a prayer vigil in front of Sen. Cory Booker’s office in Camden in a last attempt to help the couple before they were to be deported. In a statement, the bishop noted that Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops have long maintained that immigrants “deserve our refuge, our protection, and our support.” The Campos, he added, “are the very definition of good neighbors. The kind of people any community would be proud to call their own.”

Later that day U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s office expressed disappointment “that ICE has denied the request for a stay of removal and saddened to see another family needlessly torn apart.”

“The immigration policies proposed by the Trump Administration stand in stark contrast to some of our most fundamental American values and callously target New Jerseyans who contribute so much to what makes our state and nation strong. Mr. and Mrs. Campos’ case reinforces the urgent need for us to stand united in seeking common sense solutions to our broken immigration system that are consistent with our core American principles,” said Sen. Booker spokesperson Tom Pietrykoski.

Deacon Arnaldo Santos, of the Parish of the Holy Cross, has known the family for almost as long as they’ve been in the United States, and called the couple’s departure “an injustice.”

“We as a Catholic Church are against broken families. They deserve to be in the United States and reunited as a family,” he said.

Deacon Santos noted that he has contacted Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump and other government leaders, urging their help.

“Congress needs to get to work; we need just immigration reform,” he said.

He and local church community members and leaders have been in constant touch with the children left behind, and have helped with food and utilities for the house. As well, an anonymous donor has given the three $5,000 toward their education.

Through the efforts of the local Catholic Church, Deacon Santos earlier this week was able to present Janet and Erwing with airplane tickets to Mexico to be with their parents for Christmas. Due to work commitments, Oscar, Jr., won’t be able to join his family.

Deacon Santos has also spoken frequently with Oscar in Mexico, and said that the father was scheduled to have a meeting at the country’s U.S. Embassy with officials on Dec. 13, hopeful to be able to return to Bridgeton.