When Logic descended the stairs of the Radio City Music Hall before taking the stage at the 2018 Video Music Awards, dozens of children wearing T-shirts that read “We Are All Human Beings” joined him. The children have all seen firsthand the devastating effects of this country’s broken immigration system. Logic – who wore a black T-shirt with the words “F*ck the Wall” emblazoned on them – and Ryan used their performance of “One Day” to stage a protest of the US’ immigration practices and the family separations that rocked the nation. The most powerful moment came when the curtain behind the group lifted and the children’s parents came forward to embrace them. But for at least one child on stage on Monday night, there was one parent missing.
15-year-old Jefferson Arpi’s father, Manuel, has languished in immigrant detention since late 2017. On October 31, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) entered their home in Peekskill, New York and detained Manuel Armando Arpi, an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador. In 2013, state police arrested and charged him with aggravated driving while intoxicated, as his children were reportedly in the car at the time.
Arpi’s family has spent the last nine months fighting for Manuel, who arrived to the US as a teenager in 1995. In 2017, a 14-year-old Jefferson denounced the immigration system. “It’s really hard for me to think about my dad being locked up like an animal, being stripped from his freedom and his family,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s inhumane, it’s not right. I just want him to come back home.”
Initially, Manuel ended up in center in New York. But he’s now in Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama, about a thousand miles away. As Logic’s show of solidarity goes viral, people are using the opportunity to bring attention toward the Arpi’s case. United We Dream, for example, immediately tweeted a petition that people could sign to pressure ICE to release Manuel. (You can sign it here.)
This is one of Manuel Arpi's Son. He joined the stage with @Logic and @RyanTedder at the #VMAs tonight. Manuel currently finds himself hundreds of miles away in a detention camp but tonight you can help reunite his family. Sign the petition. https://t.co/BwclBUcimA pic.twitter.com/P2XTnEI2op
— United We Dream Action (@UNITEDWEDREAM) August 21, 2018
While Jefferson couldn’t embrace his dad on stage, the performance was still a milestone. “I’m so excited to have performed with Logic tonight,” he said in a statement, according to Vox. “It meant a lot to me to be able to represent my family because my dad, Manuel Arpi, is in a detention camp. Logic’s music video showed that even though our families face a lot of pain, we are strong, we are fighters, and we are human.”
Check out the performance below.