DACA Recipient Cristian Padilla Romero and Tens of Thousands of Allies Are Campaigning to Save His Mother’s Life

Cristian Padilla Romero mother BELatina
PHOTO COURTESY OF CRISTIAN PADILLA ROMERO

Cristian Padilla Romero, a graduate student at Yale and DACA recipient, is at the head of a campaign to save Tania Romero, his mother, from deportation to their birth country of Honduras. The elder Romero was recently taken into ICE custody for a traffic violation in Georgia and has been in a private detention center ever since, where she does not have access to the treatments she needs for stage IV oral cancer. Padilla Romero has been pushing for her release as a matter of her life or death.

“I need to see my oncologist because I am not getting any care here,” his mother said in a phone interview last week with Democracy Now! from Irwin County Detention Center. “I had an appointment with the oncologist at the hospital in September, and I have not been able to see him yet.” In September, authorities denied her request for a stay of deportation. Padilla Romero added that because of this missed appointment, they don’t have any idea how her cancer is progressing. “And so, we started this campaign last week because we are really fearful for her health,” he explained. “And we really want to ask for peoples support to build pressure on ICE to release her while we await the pending motions to the courts.” A petition for her release is up on Mijente, with over 35,000 signatures as of Sunday evening; the campaign is hoping to gain a total of at least 40,000 signatures.

In the petition, Padilla Romero shared a bit about his family’s background and the sacrifices they had to make in order for him to be a doctoral student at Yale, where he’s pursuing a degree in 20th-century Latin and Central American history. [My] mom has worked her whole life as a housekeeper, restaurant dishwasher, and construction worker so that my three siblings and I could have a better life than the one she lived back in Honduras, where she suffered from malnutrition, poverty, and very poor healthcare.” By the way, his focus on modern Latin American history is something he plans to use not only to free his mother but to take up the larger fight for immigrants’ rights.

Being deported to Honduras, he believes, will limit his mother’s access to healthcare in a way that threatens her prognosis. “There might be private centers that have somewhat adequate resources, but I doubt that there’s anywhere near enough resources for something like cancer,” he told Vice last week. “If she were to go back, and her cancer were to return, or if she were to need any sort of special treatment, she would not be able to get it there.” Even the conditions in the detention center pose a unique threat to her health. “[She] receives no accommodations for her condition. They’re only given 10 minutes to eat meals.” He explained that due to her treatment for oral cancer, she is unable to eat enough food in that short period of time.

Through his efforts to raise the visibility of his mother’s plight, Padilla Romero has been able to connect with politicians in Georgia, including Rep. Lucy McBath, in order to pressure ICE to #ReleaseTaniaNow. He isn’t doing it alone; he has allies within the ranks of his university, from students to professors to administrators. When stuff like this comes up you drop everything,” a peer of Padilla Romero’s, a fellow Yale doctoral student, told the New York Times. Peoples families are being torn apart every day by cruel and unethical deportation policies, and so the minute Cristian told me what was happening, it was time to mobilize.”