When we heard the story of Elsa Mengis and her son Thomas, we knew that we had to do something to help.
Elsa and Thomas are refugees from Eritrea, a country they fled decades ago. They settled in Portland, Oregon, where they were able to make a good life for themselves.
And as time passed, their roles reversed, and Thomas became his mother’s caregiver.
But he’s now being detained by immigration officials, hundreds of miles away from home, and his mother is struggling without the care of her son. (Due to a paperwork mix-up, Thomas never became a US citizen).
My name is Elsa Mengis, and 32 years ago, I escaped the civil war in my home country of Eritrea with my son Thomas. He was only 5 when we came to the United States.
Now Thomas is almost 40, and the U.S. is his home. He is also the only family I have here. Since I was a child, I have struggled with a disability that does not allow me to bend my arm, and Thomas has always helped me. As I got older, everyday things like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of myself became even harder. And without hesitation, Thomas became my primary caregiver.
But now, my son is being held in an immigration detention center in California, and any day he could be deported back to Eritrea, where he has no friends, no family, and no knowledge of the culture or even the language.
With him gone, I am very lonely and can’t take care of myself and my home. After his detention, I broke my leg, which has only made life harder. Will you help me bring Thomas back home?
Immigration officials can make the decision to release my son while he awaits a final decision. Community support is often the deciding factor, so your voice can make a real difference.
After leaving Eritrea, we lived as refugees in Sudan for four years. When we got the opportunity to move to Portland, Oregon — a place we had never even heard of before — we thought our hard times were over.
I applied to become a citizen when Thomas was 17, and we were advised that since he was a minor, he would automatically become a citizen when I did. Paperwork delayed my application, and I took my oath a few months after his 18th birthday. Neither of us knew that he hadn’t become a citizen until he was picked up by immigration officers.
Thomas has always cared for others. My neighbor Darleen lived alone, and Thomas would go to her house every day to help with chores and to keep her company, and never asked for anything in return. When she passed away, he helped her family clean out her house. Now, Darleen’s family is helping me bring Thomas home.
Thomas is an important part of our community in Portland, and this unjust detention is keeping him away from the people who need and love him. I hope you can join me in calling on immigration officials to free my son and let him come home.
Thank you for your support,