Prayer vigil at Elizabeth Detention Center
BRIDGETON – Born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, Oscar Campos crossed the border illegally to Texas in 1989 and eventually made his way to Bridgeton. His early life was living in fear of violence caused by the drug cartels.
“The town I come from is so dangerous that you can’t even own a home, a business or a new car without being extorted by the drug cartels,” said Campos, adding, “They control everything.” According to Campos, if you refuse to pay a certain amount of money, members of the family can be kidnapped or murdered.
“My parents were struggling. They barely could afford to buy groceries, pay medical expense, and also pay for my and my siblings’ education,” said Campos. “Living in the United States was my only hope.”
Campos is a member of the Parish of the Holy Cross in Bridgeton – where he married his wife Humberta 23 years ago. He achieved the American dream of buying his own home and owning his own business. His two sons and daughter are all American citizens, born and raised. He attends Mass every Sunday. He earned his GED in 1999.
In 1997 Humberta obtained a work permit from immigration and began to work legally. She later applied to immigration for residency but was denied. She appealed the case and it was denied once again. She still has an open case with immigration. Humberta has been reporting to the immigration authorities for three years now.
“I live in despair because of the probability of my deportation,” said Humberta. “The government is trying to tear me away from my children whom I would not be able to spend a minute without.”
On the morning of Dec. 3, 2013, Oscar Campos drove Humberta to a routine visit with immigration authorities. Suddenly, while Oscar waited in the parking lot for his wife, a van with tinted windows pulled up behind him.
“I was petrified as federal agents approached me, arrested me, and I was taken to lockup in Elizabeth, N.J.,” Oscar said with teary eyes, adding, “I know that I am undocumented, but I am not a criminal. I am a father of three and a husband.”
Humberta turned to her faith. She prayed the rosary. She met with nuns and clergy for advice, which led her to hold a prayer vigil for her husband. She gathered her family and supporters to hold the prayer vigil and a small rally outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in December of 2013. As she led the Lord’s Prayer, she held a sign with the message “Act Now – Stop Separating Families.”
Erwing Campos, 11 years old, held a sign with the message “Santa Claus. I don’t want presents. I want my dad!” Janet Campos, 18, raised a sign with the message “We want our dad free.”
Oscar Campos, Jr., 20, had a sign with the message “Those who rebuild our cities shouldn’t have to fear being deported.”
Members of the clergy petitioned for Oscar Campos and caught the attention of the press. After many petitions to congressmen, including visits and prayers in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 23, 2013, Oscar received an early Christmas gift – he was released from the Elizabeth Detention Contract Facility, where he was greeted by his wife and two of his three children.
“It’s a miracle that I was released before Christmas! I give thanks to God, my family, and the clergy for all their support and prayers,” he said. “God has answered our prayers!”
However, Oscar’s release does not guarantee legal status and citizenship.
Derek DeCosmo, an attorney representing Campos and vice chairman of the New Jersey chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, filed an application with ICE requesting a stay of removal. According to Campos, the case is still pending.
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