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Booking Memo

The Trump Administration's Separation of Families

Media Contact: Leezia Dhalla, press@fwd.us

AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT: Legal experts, individuals from mixed-status families, and those directly impacted by family separations in the interior, as well as at the U.S.-Mexico border due to the dangerous “Remain in Mexico” program.

The Trump Administration’s separation of families at the border was one of the most devastating and unpopular decisions of the last four years. These policies were widely reported on and were overwhelmingly rejected by people across the country, but the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families extended far beyond the border. More than 8 million U.S. citizens live with undocumented family members, and hundreds of thousands of these families have been separated because of President Trump’s interior enforcement policies. Through a series of executive orders – making essentially every undocumented person a “priority” for removal – the Trump Administration targeted mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers for deportation, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, separating thousands of U.S. citizen children from their parents.

Legal Expert

Taylor Levy (El Paso, TX) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Immigration Attorney

Members of Mixed-Status Families and Individuals Directly Impacted by Family Separation

Asylum seeker with an alias  (Nogales, México)
Asylum seeker

Asylum seeker with an alias (Ciudad Juárez, México)
Asylum seeker

Giancarla Rojas (Washington, D.C.)
Program Manager, FWD.us

Venecia Salazar (Salt Lake City, Utah) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Shipping Director, Monnit Corp

Esmeralda Tovar (Hutchinson, KS)
Mother & Nursing Assistant

José González (Bay Area, CA) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Senior Managing Director of Teach For America’s DACA Initiative

Juan Escalante (Washington, D.C. & FL) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Digital Campaigns Manager, FWD.us

Maria Praeli (Washington, D.C.)
Government Relations Manager, FWD.us

Pamela Chomba (Washington, D.C.) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Director of State Immigration Campaigns, FWD.us

Samuel Cervantes (Arlington, VA, and Houston, TX) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Research Associate, FWD.us

Bios


Taylor Levy (El Paso, TX) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Immigration Attorney

After a decade working with various nonprofits, Taylor founded her own legal consulting firm dedicated to protecting the rights of asylum-seekers arriving at our southern border. Taylor currently provides pro bono legal assistance to asylum-seeking families who have been returned to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” program. Taylor also provides education and advocacy around issues affecting asylum-seekers on the border, including mentoring other attorneys, presenting at conferences, speaking to the press, and hosting professional delegations visiting the area. Additionally, in 2018, Taylor coordinated a pro bono legal project that successfully helped to reunite hundreds of parents separated from their minor children during the “zero tolerance” period of family separation. Her work has been profiled on NPR, MSNBC, CBS, The Washington Post, and ProPublica, among others.



Asylum seeker with an alias  (Nogales, México)
Asylum seeker

A father, his wife and five children ages 5 to 17, are a Honduran asylum-seeking family that traveled thousands of miles leaving their home fleeing threats from a local gang. The family is among the hundreds of asylum-seekers who’ve been returned to Mexico through local ports of entry since the U.S. government began enforcing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in Nogales. 


Asylum with an alias (Ciudad Juárez, México)
Asylum seeker

A father and his 14-year old daughter have traveled thousands of miles fleeing threats from a local gang. After waiting in Juarez under MPP for several months, they made the impossible and heartbreaking decision to split up and send his daughter across the border in late August due to the lack of safety in Juarez. To this day, they remain separated and his daughter is in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) pending the possibility of future reunification with family members.


Giancarla Rojas (Washington, D.C.)
Program Manager, FWD.us 

Giancarla Rojas immigrated to the U.S. from Bolivia a decade ago. Her experience as a formerly undocumented immigrant who was held in a detention center at the age of 13 built her determination, confidence, and commitment to serve her community. In 2014 she became the first Dreamer to be accepted at Radford University with a full scholarship. After she graduated from Radford in 2016, she was invited to the White House to share her experience as DACA recipient on the four-year DACA anniversary. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Economics.  She is also the Board Member of the Dream Project, an organization that provides scholarships to undocumented, DACAmented, and students seeking asylum throughout college. Currently, she is the Program Manager at FWD.us a bipartisan organization whose mission is to promote policies that keep the U.S. competitive in a global economy, starting with fixing our broken immigration system and criminal justice reform.


Venecia Salazar (Salt Lake City, Utah) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Shipping Director, Monnit Corp 

Venecia Salazar De La Fuente is a 23-year-old in Salt Lake City, Utah working to distribute important technical equipment to assist with the monitoring of COVID-19 patients. With DACA, Venecia is working as the Shipping Director at Monnit Corp, a tech company in Utah providing remote sensors and monitors to medical centers, laboratories, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and offices around the world. Venecia overcomes anxieties by focusing her work assisting monitor patients and overall environmental statuses during this time especially. Venecia has received a certification from the National Alliance for Mental Illness, published a personal story about her experience with family separation in the local newspaper, and volunteered in over 10 councils, committees, and organizations to give back to organizations that helped her grow as an advocate. She later went on to film and direct “The Dream Lives – El Sueño Vive,” a documentary film about the impact DACA has in her life. 


Esmeralda Tovar (Hutchinson, KS)
Mother & Nursing Assistant

Esmeralda came to Kansas from Mexico when she was eighteen months old and has lived in the United States her entire life. She is working on two bachelor degrees. One in nursing and the other in general studies concentrated on criminal justice, sociology, and women’s/ethnic and religion studies. She is currently working as a case manager for a mental health center and a medication aide at a nursing home. Her husband, Michael, is in the military and served a deployment overseas in 2018. Esmeralda and her husband are parents to a three-year-old U.S. citizen daughter.


José González (Bay Area, CA) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Senior Managing Director of Teach For America’s DACA Initiative 

José González is the Senior Managing Director of Teach For America’s DACA Initiative, where he supports nearly 300 DACAmented educators in 24 regions across the country.  Jose began his career in education as a middle school math teacher in LA, where he lived and taught for four years.  In 2016, José was honored by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the White House Initiative on Excellent Education for Hispanics.  In his time before, during, and after teaching, immigrant students and families have been at the forefront of his work.  As a DACA recipient from a mixed-status family himself, the work José leads is deeply personal to him.  His years of experience as an undocumented student, DACAmented educator and teacher coach, and community organizer inform his work and fuel his commitment to immigrant students and families. José holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and a Master of Arts in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University.


Juan Escalante (Washington, D.C. & FL) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Digital Campaigns Manager, FWD.us

Juan Escalante’s parents fled Venezuela in the year 2000, with Juan and his two brothers in tow, for the United States following the election of Hugo Chavez. In 2006, an immigration attorney mishandled the Escalantes’ case, which led them to lose their immigration status despite “waiting in line” while paying taxes and immigration fees. By the time President Obama announced the DACA program in 2012, Juan had graduated from Florida State University with a political science degree and had helped spearhead some of the digital tactics used in immigration-related campaigns across the country. Thanks to DACA, Juan was able to return to FSU and obtained a master’s degree in public administration in 2015. He has remained a fierce and relentless advocate for immigrant rights. Escalante’s work has been highlighted and published in a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, USA Today, Univision, and CNN. 


Maria Praeli (Washington, D.C.)
Government Relations Manager, FWD.us

Maria Praeli moved to the United States from Peru in 1999 when she was five years old to seek medical treatment for her sister, whose leg was amputated in a car accident. She is the only undocumented individual in her mixed status family; her sister is a U.S. citizen and her mother is a Legal Permanent Resident. In addition to her family being impacted by the uncertainty of her future, Maria’s partner of more than three years, Jared, also feels the negative impacts of not knowing if Maria will be able to stay in the country they both call home. Today, Maria is the government relations manager at FWD.us. Her work focuses on strengthening outreach efforts to elected officials, providing education and resources on immigration policy to congressional offices, and working on special projects related to Dreamers and TPS holders.  Prior to joining FWD.us, Maria was the deputy director for canvass at Mi Familia Vota, where she worked on initiatives to build broad community partnerships and drive stronger voter engagement in Nevada. After moving from Peru, Maria attended public schools in Connecticut before earning an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Gateway Community College, and then a bachelor’s degree in political science from Quinnipiac University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude.


Pamela Chomba (Washington, D.C.) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Director of State Immigration Campaigns, FWD.us

Pamela Chomba is the Director of State Immigration Campaigns for FWD.us, a bipartisan political organization that believes America’s families, communities, and economy thrive when more individuals are able to achieve their full potential. Pamela was born in Lima, Peru, and immigrated with her family to the U.S. in 2001. She has dedicated her career to organizing people-power through state legislative policies across the country, empowering students to become participants in the electoral process, and mentoring undocumented young adults. Prior to FWD.us, Pamela worked for Sen. Cory Booker’s special Senate election in New Jersey and moved to Texas in 2014 to work with community leaders in African-American and Latinx across Harris County. Her work is centered in community storytelling. Her goal is to elevate leaders in typically-marginalized communities despite government barriers. Pamela continues to fight for Dreamers like herself, undocumented family members, and her beloved Jersey. Pamela received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.


Samuel Cervantes (Arlington, VA, and Houston, TX) – AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA IN ENGLISH & SPANISH
Research Associate, FWD.us 

Samuel Cervantes is an immigration policy researcher and advocate. Born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico and raised in Houston, Texas, he is the oldest child in a family of four and the first of his family to attend college. Shaped by his background growing up as the gay son of an undocumented Mexican-American family, Samuel began his career as a political activist at the state level, where he worked in campaigns to protect in-state tuition for undocumented students and against anti-immigrant legislation in Texas with the University Leadership Initiative. Samuel interned at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Texas State Legislature, in addition to completing the Bill Archer Fellowship in Washington, DC, and the Public Policy International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a communications degree, Samuel now works as a Research Associate at FWD.us in Washington D.C. Thanks to the DACA program, Samuel has been able to further his education, contribute to the immigrant movement in their fight for citizenship for the undocumented immigrant population, and peace of mind in being able to be with his family in the United States.