14-year-old Raul Arellano still calls the United States home.
“This is the place where I live,” he pauses for a second. “Where I used to live.” It’s also the place where he was born.
Arellano was forced to leave his home state of Washington after his parents were deported. Today, he was one of dozens of children of deportees who met with members of Congress at the White House. Arellano is part of The Children’s Campaign, an advocacy group of children and families of deportees who are fighting for immigration reform.
Dozens of families separated by deportation made up the group that traveled to the White House today to meet with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and other members of Congress, calling for a pathway of return for close family members who have been deported.
“The message I’m trying to promote is to stop deportations because even though they’re saying we’re going to get legalization, everyday there’s a lot of people getting deported and a lot of families getting separated,” says Yesenia Guerrero, who is part of The Children’s Campaign.
Guerrero, 19 years old, says she lives in fear each and every day that her parents will get deported, forcing her to abandon her dreams of going to college and becoming a lawyer.
“I’m a dreamer. I came when I was 2 years old,” she says. “Even though I’m 19 years old, I always grew up with the fear of losing my parents and even myself going back to Mexico. Whats going to happen to my brothers and sisters?”
Guerrero’s worst fears are a reality for Fatima Suarez-Rivera. She was born in St. Louis, MO but was forced to move to Mexico once her parents were deported. Suarez-Rivera says being back in the United States feels good because it’s her birthplace.
“I want to live where I have friends and family and where I can speak my language again,” Suarez-Rivera says, calling English her native language. “Because I am forgetting.”
According to Rep. Gutierrez’s office, the United States has deported an estimated 1.6 million people in the past four years.
For Guerrero, the visit to the White House represented a chance to have her voice heard.
“If you don’t try and get the message across, no one is,” she says. “And you are always going to have to fight for your rights.”
Telemundo producer Glenda Contreras contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on NBCLatino.