Leticia Lopez, 20, stood outside Fresno's federal courthouse on Thursday and told the story of her mother through tears.
She was deported to Mexico after giving birth to Lopez, and each time they reunite, her mother insists that Lopez and her siblings stay in America with their father for a better life, even though it hurts her.
"She has had the strength to tell us goodbye every single time and let us be here," said Lopez, a fellow with the Pan Valley Institute, a Fresno organization. "I, like many others, are fighting for our mothers to be able to have legal status, for our fathers to be able to have legal status to be here with us. This is an issue that affects all of us, not just the undocumented. There’s a lot of us with mixed-status families, and we go through this hardship as well. We want to acknowledge all the women who have been stripped away from their families and the women whose husbands have been taken away."
Lopez joined protestors in Fresno to call for immigrants to be included in growing women's rights movements like #Metoo and #Timesup in honor of National Women's Day, which was Thursday. They held signs that said "the time is now to honor the women" and "the time is now to stop separating families."
Undocumented women are disproportionately impacted by the wrongs highlighted by women activists this year, including sexual harassment, but are often too afraid of deportation to alert authorities, according to reports.
With changing immigration policies, immigrant women are "living in a legal limbo" and left to work harder than ever to support their families, said Myrna Martinez Nateras, program director for the Pan Valley Institute.
"Today we want to embrace the strengths and resilience of all women, and especially immigrant and refugee women," she said. "The time is now to acknowledge the struggle they face, to tell the untold stories of women who, in spite of being subjected to all sorts of harassment in the workplace, they continue following their dreams for a better life for them and their families with strength and determination."
Jennifer Rojas, community outreach associate with the Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network, said her mother came to the U.S. nearly 30 years ago "to fight for a better life for herself and her children" and that many undocumented residents have the same story and need to be protected from deportation. She pointed to recent ICE raids in the Valley and to stories like Martha Lozano, of Modesto, a single mother with breast cancer who received a deportation order last month.
"We are calling on all of our elected officials to take a stand against Trump’s racist immigration agenda, and we ask you to find solutions to the terrorizing of our communities," Rojas said. "Today, on International Women's Day, we state loud and clear that we don't want any more mothers taken away from our community. We don't want one more grandmother placed in detention, and we don't want one more daughter to be separated from their families."