Amid immigration order and disorder, these 2 advocates will step into spotlight

In this 2008 photo, Gabriela Pacheco appears with her parents, Enrique Pacheco and María de Fátima Pacheco, during a news conference in Miami.
In this 2008 photo, Gabriela Pacheco appears with her parents, Enrique Pacheco and María de Fátima Pacheco, during a news conference in Miami. El Nuevo herald

Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice will have its annual awards dinner downtown this week, highlighting the organization’s goal of assisting and welcoming foreign refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants from around the world.

With the theme “Upholding the American Dream,” the group known as AI Justice will honor two prominent people — Khizr Khan and Gabriela “Gaby” Pacheco — for their contributions to immigrant and human rights.

Khan is the Pakistani-American father of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq war. Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, drew wide attention at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 for criticizing Donald Trump, then the Republican Party nominee.

Pacheco, originally from Ecuador, is a leader of the DREAMer movement of young immigrants whose undocumented parents brought them to the United States when they were children.

The event, on Friday at the InterContinental Miami hotel, comes at a particularly tense moment in American immigration history.

Just days after Trump was sworn in as president, he signed several immigration-related executive orders including one that put an immediate halt to the admission into the United States of refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Khan harshly criticized Trump’s order.

Early Sunday, after a judge blocked the ban, a federal appeals court denied the Justice Department’s request for an immediate reinstatement.

“Donald Trump’s race to violate constitutional principles and fundamental American values by targeting Muslims and immigrants is of tremendous concern,” Khan said in a statement.

At the AI Justice event in Miami, Khan will receive America’s Immigrant Spirit Award, which “celebrates the extraordinary contributions of immigrants to the United States,” according to an AI Justice statement.

Pacheco will receive the Holly Skolnick Human Rights Award for her “unwavering courage as a DREAMer and immigrant rights leader,” according to the statement.

“Both Mr. Khan and Ms. Pacheco have used their voice to empower the voiceless in the face of adversity and continue to inspire people around the country as they uphold the ideals on which the U.S. was founded,” the statement said.

“Economic uncertainty and a rapidly changing world have spawned a fearful mean spirit toward immigrants,” said Cheryl Little, AI Justice’s executive director. “Today we strengthen our resolve to ensure that immigrants’ basic rights are soundly defended.”

Jeffrey Toobin, a best-selling author, staff writer at The New Yorker and CNN senior legal analyst, will deliver the keynote address.

Cristina Pereyra-Alvarez, a former 11th Judicial Circuit judge, will serve as mistress of ceremonies. Hundreds are expected to attend, including many of South Florida community leaders.

Since 1996, AI Justice has provided free legal services to 100,000 immigrants from all over the world.

For more information on Friday’s event, call 305-573-1106, ext. 1107. Or go to