Yale student fighting mother’s deportation reunited with her Thanksgiving week
Cristian Padilla Romero GRD ’24, the Yale student who has been fighting his ailing mother’s deportation from the United States, was reunited with her before Thanksgiving, after she was released temporarily from federal custody.
“As of now, she is safe with my family and beginning a long road of recovery,” he wrote in a Thanksgiving week note to supporters that he shared with YaleNews.
In October, the doctoral student drew national attention for his public campaign to free his mother, Tania Romero, from an ICE detention center in Georgia and save her from deportation. An undocumented immigrant from Honduras, she is recovering from Stage 4 oral cancer.
Tania, who came to the United States with Cristian and other family members in the 1990s, worked three jobs while raising her children in Georgia. In August, she was detained following a minor motor vehicle violation there. ICE later began deportation proceedings.
Many people in the Yale community have rallied behind Cristian, a doctoral student in history, during the ordeal. In his note to supporters, he expressed gratitude for both the aid and continuing concern for his mother, who still faces the possibility of deportation amid ongoing legal action.
“Each day forward is a step towards justice for my mother,” he wrote. “With the help of colleagues, advocacy organizations, our legal team, and all of you, our supporters, we will continue to fight for her permanent relief so she can fully recover.”
Cristian is currently protected from deportation by the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
President Peter Salovey expressed personal commitment to fair and inclusive immigration policies.
“I am deeply troubled that our immigration policy has come to this point,” he said. “I am the grandson of immigrants who came to the United States with dreams of a better life, so I take this matter personally. Our country is economically stronger and intellectually richer because of immigrants. Over the years, I have raised my concerns with presidents of the United States and met with numerous members of Congress about immigration, and I will continue to work for fair and inclusive immigration policies.”
Scores of Yale professors and students who know Cristian have joined his cause — signing a petition, calling and visiting influential people and organizations, raising money for legal and medical expenses, and speaking with reporters. Lawyers at Yale Law School have provided legal guidance.
“If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is the way our community has come together in its support of Cristian and Tania — students, faculty, departmental and university administrators, the Law School's legal clinic, members of the New Haven community, and congressional delegations from here to Georgia,” said Cristian’s academic adviser, Gilbert Joseph, the Farnam Professor of History & International Studies. “The mobilization of personal and scholarly networks has energized people all over the country.”
On Nov. 10, before Tania’s temporary release, Yale Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley published an opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution describing the family’s circumstances and expressing concern for her and Cristian.
“Cristian is one student, and an emblem of many,” she wrote. “We welcome and support each and every one.”
Alicia Schmidt Camacho is a professor of American studies and chair of the Ethnicity, Race and Migration Program, which has been especially active on Cristian’s behalf.
“I am humbled by the extraordinary network of people who have come together to demand freedom for Tania Romero,” she said. “Cristian and his colleagues have used this personal story to expose the cruelty of incarceration and deportation and to shed light on their devastating impact on so many communities. This campaign began with students who felt a shared responsibility to protect one another and to make a stand for justice. At a time of grave challenges, our students are teaching us the power of collective action, and especially, the vital importance of universities as spaces of social transformation. Cristian and his cohort embody the most precious values of a scholarly community, and they are enlarging the mission of this university as they work together.”