When Jesus Lara faced deportation from Willard, Ohio in 2017, I knew
the American people would want him to stay with his children if they
got to know him. We began our campaign to keep Jesus in Ohio with
a meeting at his church, inviting the entire community.
The New York Times visited Willard to learn how a small rural town,
deep in "Trump Country," would feel about the deportation of a hard-
Washington, DC--their first time on a plane--to lobby Congress.
a petition in favor of letting Jesus stay and passing out Goldfish
crackers from the factory where Jesus worked.
Local papers shone a spotlight on the lack of leadership from the family's Congressional representative, Bob Gibbs. People who had never been involved in an immigration campaign were moved to take action after hearing about Jesus and his family, including some Trump voters. Across the US, 35,000 people signed a petition to stop Jesus' deportation--including six hundred of Rep. Bob Gibbs' constituents.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer covered Jesus and his family with a human lens, publishing pictures of him playing basketball with his kids and explaining that he is a taxpayer and homeowner. The paper also took the opportunity to educate readers about what is true and what is not when it comes to frequently-heard immigration rhetoric.
July 18, 2017, the day Jesus was deported via the Cleveland-Hopkins Airport, hundreds of thousands of people watched him and his family say good-bye on TV with broken hearts. They donated $34,000 to the family to start over. Jesus' deportation was covered nationally and internationally. The campaign was one of the top local stories for 2017. Media continued to follow-up with Jesus after his deportation, and photos of Jesus and his family saying goodbye continue to crop up on social media.
I will not say that the effort was successful, because Jesus was deported. But, the American people did get to know Jesus, become motivated to act on his behalf, and recognized the cruelty of the government's act.