[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Miami Nice (A Continuing Series)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Miami Nice (A Continuing Series)

Here's a case involving a Honduran family of 5 living in Texas who decides to leave home after receiving a letter from Immigration authorities stating that their work permit was not being renewed. Fearing deportation back to Honduras, the family decides to head to The Promised Land of Miami, home to a Honduran Univision TV host, as well as many Honduran residents. What happens to them shortly after arriving in this forsaken place?

Take a look for yourself.

A Honduran family celebrated the Fourth of July in Miami with new hopes and housing after an outpouring of community support.

By Casto Ocando
El Nuevo Herald

Sixteen years after arriving from Honduras, starting a family and working to get ahead, landscaper Rumualdo González never imagined he would be celebrating Independence Day in Miami after having survived the worst crisis of his life.

It started in March when González, 52, received a letter from immigration authorities stating the U.S. government would not renew his permit to stay and work. ''They didn't give any explanation. Our dreams evaporated,'' he told El Nuevo Herald Wednesday.

Faced with remaining in the country illegally or being deported, the Honduran said he decided to leave Alice, Texas, and head to Florida to seek help through Honduran Unity, an immigration advocacy group in Miami.

The two-month odyssey took González, 52, his wife Hilda and their three children on a quixotic quest to meet with television host Neida Sandoval at Univisión headquarters in Doral and, eventually, with Jose Lagos, president of Honduran Unity.

González, Hilda, 48, and children Carla, 15, Jeffrey, 11, and Carlos, 5, finally found support through various immigrant rights groups, charities and good Samaritans who stepped forward to help when the family took its plight to South Florida's Spanish-language airwaves.

On Wednesday the González family celebrated the Fourth of July in their new home in Miami, after having spent all their savings staying in hotels, part of the time in Tampa -- where their children finished school. When they got to Homestead last month, they were broke and for two days slept on the streets, until three weeks ago when they found a makeshift home in a Little Havana office.

''We're finally starting a new life, thank God,'' González said as his family sat down for lunch with supporters at an apartment they moved into Wednesday.

''It's what America is all about,'' said Lagos of Honduran Unity.

Carla González, who along with her siblings and mother are in the United States legally, said she had been anxious that her father ``could be deported at any moment.''

Sandoval connected the family to community groups.

''We went looking for Neida Sandoval,'' González said of the Despierta América (Wake up America) host and fellow Honduran, and she, in turn, put the family in contact with Nora Sándigo, director of American Nicaraguan Fraternity, and Lagos of the Honduran group. In a Channel 41 news program, immigration attorney Eduardo Soto offered to help González get his residency papers in order.

And on a radio show hosted by the local St. Vincent de Paul Society on Radio Paz, people started to offer money, jobs, even housing.

''We each put in our little grain of sand,'' said Gloria Palacios, who donated food and mattresses for the family.

Hugo Pazoli, an Argentinean who owns the property where the González family now lives, allowed them to move in without leaving a deposit or signing a contract. ''I'm doing this because I want to give back what this country has given to me as an immigrant,'' Pazoli said.

Miami Herald writer Noah Bierman contributed to this report.



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