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September 18, 2013

Rally held for Salem mother from Guatemala

SALEM — A rally was held yesterday for a Salem woman who is facing deportation following her arrest last month in a motor vehicle stop.

More than 60 people gathered outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Burlington, many of them immigration reform advocates, to support Mariola Perez, an immigrant from Guatemala who came to this country without legal documents, has lived in Salem for three years and is seeking asylum.

Perez, 26, and her 3-year-old son reside with Avi Chomsky, a Salem State University professor who was one of the rally organizers.

“I am afraid of taking (my son) back to Guatemala,” Perez told the crowd gathered outside the ICE building, as her son, Ernesto, stood by her side. “I don’t want him to be exposed to the abuse and violence I will have to return to.”

Perez was a victim of domestic abuse and is a member of a persecuted Mayan minority in her homeland, according to speakers at the rally.

Guatemala “is an extremely dangerous place” for a poor, single mother like Perez, said Deborah Levenson, a professor of Latin American history at Boston College.

Perez’s odyssey began three years ago when she fled Guatemala and, after several attempts, entered this country through Mexico, according to Chomsky.

“She appeared on my doorstep seven months pregnant, homeless, terrified and traumatized,” said Chomsky.

Since arriving, Perez has taken English as a Second Language classes at Salem State University and enrolled her son in a Salem State preschool, according to Chomsky.

Chomsky called it “ironic” that it was Salem State University police who arrested Perez Aug. 25 on a charge of driving without a license. She was stopped after going through a light at the corner of Loring and Lafayette streets, Chomsky said.

The young mother delivers newspapers and cleans houses, Chomsky said. She also has enrolled in a college readiness program and takes parenting classes, she said.

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