* * *
WILLARD — If local man Jesus Lara can’t get help from one source, one Norwalk man said he’s going to help find another in an effort to stop this father of four from being deported in less than week.
Dennis Stieber, of Norwalk, didn’t know the Lara’s before their story was first broke by the Norwalk Reflector and has made headlines in several papers, including the Sandusky Register, Plain Dealer and New York Times.
Lara’s deportation is scheduled for Tuesday, which would send him back to Mexico. He would leave behind a wife and four children — American citizens who also have started a petition and pleaded for help in stopping their father’s deportation.
When Stieber heard Lara was having a hard time getting responses and garnering support from U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Holmes County), he decided to take it upon himself to help. He created and distributed a contact list for Gibbs and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“I think for me personally, I know it happens nationwide but the fact that hit so close to home, it’s bothered me,” he said.
“(I want) for people to call to implore our representatives to make a call to ICE to get the deportation stopped. My feeling is that if there are a mass amount of phone calls made, at least one of these gentlemen will take action. ... This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but one of human rights. Everyone has to work together to get this done.”
Stieber called Gibbs, Brown and Protman, asking for their help. Brown’s office was the only one to return his call and emailed him a form Lara would need to fill out for Brown to be permitted to advocate on his behalf. He made a meeting with Lara and Willard Chamber of Commerce executive director and pastor Ricky Branham to encourage Lara to consider the form.
Lara had already filled out Borwn’s form but hasn’t heard back, according to Stieber. The Norwalk man said he still wanted to show Lara his support.
“I told (Lara) I’m interested in getting a little more involved and perhaps getting any helping him however I can,” Stieber said. “I met the family and we talked with their attorney and Miss Lynn Tramonte, who’s been advocating for him through America’s Voice. ... I expressed whatever I could do I would do.”
Tramonte serves as director of Ohio’s Voice, a state-based immigration project. She also serves as deputy director of America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund.
Stieber said he believes their efforts could make a difference, but it’s a challenge.
“Having anything signed by Sen. Brown would be quite advantageous but it’s getting him to do it,” he said. “But maybe there’s more going on behind the scenes we don’t see.
“Basically I just showed support with what I could do with my limited resources and connections with people because I very much believe in his cause,” Stieber said, adding he doesn’t think Lara should be deported.
“Should he have tried a little sooner? Perhaps, but I also know immigration is not only a lengthy process, it’s expensive. (For many illegal immigrants) this is too extensive and time consuming and so they think as long as they keep up their work permits and check in with ICE, they’ll be fine.
“The way ICE and the administration look at immigration now, though, I think those that are here, they’re going to have to look a lot more closely at ‘How do we make ourselves legal?’”
Stieber said he thinks “people have a tenancy to forget our history.”
“Our great-great-grandparents came with nothing but the shirts on their back,” he said. “They had no documents or anything but were assimilated into our culture, not without backlash though of course, even then. Some of them never did become citizens, but considered themselves citizens — paid taxes, waved the American flag, maybe never got the chance to vote. They considered themselves Americans even if they never went through the full immigration process.
“I never give up hope,” he said. “I believe in the people that made this country great.”