Nine-year-old Rodrigo Guzmán saw his life turned upside down in January, when he and his parents were told they couldn’t return home to Berkeley, Calif. The fourth grader's family had gone to visit relatives in Mexico, but were stopped when they tried to re-enter the U.S. with expired visas. They can’t legally reapply for five years.
The surprise clobbered Rodrigo. He'd been in the U.S. since before his second birthday, so Mexico is a foreign country to him.
"Every day he asks when we're going back home,” his mother Reyna Díaz said, according to the Contra Costa Times. “He doesn't want to eat. It's very hard on him.”
His classmates at Jefferson Elementary School in California want Rodrigo back, too.
The students, aided by concerned mother Mable Yee, launched a campaign to return Rodrigo and his family to the U.S., pressuring local politicians, members of Congress and President Barack Obama.
“The children are very determined to do something about Rodrigo,” Yee told The Huffington Post. “It’s exciting as a parent to watch this.”
Yee said she helped start the campaign after her son, Kyle Kuwahara, came home upset that classmate Rodrigo hadn't come to school. In a letter addressed to Obama, the 4th grade student wrote:
I am asking you as the President of the United States to allow Rodrigo and his family to return to their home here in California. It is really important to us that he is allowed to come back. He has been in our school for five years and he is a friend of mine. Rodrigo is not free to come back. In school we are learning about all these important people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks who fought for people's civil rights and freedom.
So what about Rodrigo's freedom? Who is fighting for his freedom?
This is our time to stand up like Cesar Chavez, Yuri Kochiyama and Dolores Huerta to fight for Rodrigo's rights. We have to fight for Rodrigo's rights because he is not able to do it himself!
The protesters started a website, a Change.org petition, and a social media campaign.
They’ve already won a major battle. The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously this month in favor of a resolution asking Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Obama to help push for the family’s return.
“It isn’t fair he is stuck in Mexico,” Rodrigo’s Jefferson Elementary classmate Kaiya Daniels told Berkeley Side. “All of his classmates and all of his friends miss him and he misses Berkeley. I want him to be able to come back to Berkeley and to Jefferson.”
Yee said the protestors plan to travel to Washington to continue their push.