Consider the life I’ve built in Pittsburgh, not just my immigration status

Update—Martín Esquivel Hernández was deported late Tuesday morning, Feb. 7, 2017, according to his supporters. He had been imprisoned in Ohio for the past nine months.

Editor’s Note: Martín Esquivel Hernández, an undocumented immigrant who was living in the Pittsburgh area, wrote this letter from a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio, in December 2016. Martín was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs agents on May 2, 2016, a month after he was cited by police for driving without a license and a day after marching in an anti-deportation rally. The letter is addressed to Soo Song, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

I am here in the prison that they have called the most unpleasant and degrading place to put a human being. [...] I wanted to live a life of dignity, of peace, of love, of happiness — just like anyone else would want.

I am not a criminal. The only crime I’ve committed was to love and fight for my neighbors, as if these strangers were my family. That is not a crime. There is nothing bad about doing that. This is why I am strongly asking you, with all my heart and respect, Soo Song, that you look at the suffering that you have caused my children through the eyes of a mother.

Please look at my mother. All the pain she is in — physical and emotional. She is elderly and is sick. She needs help. And my wife needs help, too. As a woman, please see the suffering that these women are going through.

And observe the suffering of our young children — specifically the suffering of my youngest child, Alex, who every day asks when his father will return. “Your father is working and will be back soon.” My wife can only tell him lies to soften his pain.

She tells him I am busy painting houses and making things look beautiful again. Alex knows that I used to paint for work and that is what we have been telling him every day and on the days that he comes and visits me.

My son picks up the phone during our booth visitations and asks, “Why can’t I find you?” He asks why he can’t be with me, or hug me, or ever play with me.

And I can only tell him that I am working and need to paint these houses. One day, I tell him, I will be done and we will play together soon.

Now I am asking you, Soo Song — I am asking for mercy during these holiday times, for a Christmas present. Please, from the bottom of your heart, as a powerful woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a child of good-hearted parents, I only ask you to have mercy. Not only for me, but for the suffering of my young children and mother, too.

Please give me freedom and liberty. I ask you this to finally be able to paint a smile on my family’s hearts and faces. They are hurting. I am hurting.

In your hands is the choice to continue making us suffer or finally allow us to be happy once again. Please think of the future of my children. What will become of them without a parent?

Soo Song, thank you for taking valuable time to listen to my words as a father who suffers and longs to be reunited with his beautiful family.

In this moment, I am imprisoned as if I were a criminal. But the only crime that I have ever committed was to love everyone with all my heart and spirit.

I want to be there to help my oldest daughter, Shayla, in her time of need, and my second daughter, Luz, and my youngest son, Alex, and my wife, Alma, and my mother, Maria Elena. I want to be there for them, and I also want to be back in the Pittsburgh community helping others again.

Soo Song, please, I ask you to do the right thing — even when no one is looking.

Sincerely,

Martín Esquivel Hernández