The Faces (UPDATED: family names & Jan. 30 court date)
These are the faces of deportation. These are the faces of immigrants who are being deported in record numbers by an administration that promised reform four years ago. These are the faces of Esperanza and Roberto, who came to America nine years ago searching a better life. They are from Guatemala and they have three amazing children Mark 3 yrs., Christine 5 yrs. and Sarah 6 yrs. -- they are United States Citizens.
The family came to Syracuse back in 2008 after Governor Jan Brewer enacted anti-immigration laws in Arizona. Thousands of immigrants fled the state to go back to their countries of origin and thousands fled to other states.
I learned about their story through a colleague. The family was willing to address the Media to share their story; they have already been interviewed by a local newspaper and the article will be released at the beginning of February. A Monday Press Conference was planned in Albany.
Around 8:00 p.m. on the Sunday before the Presser I received a call letting me know the family was no longer able to speak; they were advised by a trusted clergyman to not do it because doing so could jeopardize their case and to remember that ICE and the court had done them a favor - more on this shortly. They are scheduled to appear in NYS Court on January 30, 2013.
With much respect for the work each and everyone of us does to help others; I was extremely disappointed about the news. The only way to change this broken system is by putting pressure on our elected officials, on those leaders who have been entrusted with the incredible job of representing the people. The stories of immigrants like Arely and Hector are seldom told; they remain ghosts in the shadows of society. I respect the family's decision, because I know fear can be a powerful way to silence someone yet would have really liked to see the family share their story publicly and in their own words. I believe just as powerful is humanizing the deportation discussion with the faces of those who are trapped in the system.
These families' names have been changed as I did not want to cause any problems. The news paper story will be public in a week; after their January court date. Before then, I am sharing this story, which is the story of thousands of immigrants across the nation. This is the story of those who never get to speak with a reporter and get to have their picture in a newspaper or have the opportunity to come forward and speak in a Press Conference to tell the world what is happening to them.
This is the story of thousands of families who are being shattered by an immigration system that has no problem spending $4 million per day to detain an average of 33,000 immigrants in any one of the 100+ deportation facilities across the nation. This is the story of approximately 90,000 immigrant parents whose children are United States Citizens. This is the story of US Citizen children whose rights and privileges afforded to them through the Constitution do not seem to matter. This is the story of a foster care system that currently has more than 5,100 children who were taken from their immigrant parents with many who will never see them again. This is the story of yet another statistic, another family whose dream is no longer.
How Arely was Detained
Hector, Arely, their children and a friend were headed to visit a friend at a farm in upstate NY. Hector was driving a borrowed car with an expired registration sticker - you know where this is headed. State Police stopped them, when asked if he had a driver's license Hector said no - honest answer. He showed the officer documentation indicating he was in deportation proceedings. The officer then asked Arely for her license, to which she noted she didn't have one. Another officer was called to the scene and together they escorted Hector and his passengers to the nearest rest area where ICE officials were called to the scene. Hector was allowed to leave with the children but Arely was detained and taken by Border Patrol to Oswego NY. She and their friend were processed and sent to Wayne County Jail, Lyons NY which is about a two hours drive from Oswego.
A local clergyman, activists and a local reporter were responsible for 1) locating her because when they first took her no one knew where she was and 2) her release -- they called local ICE officials and asked for her release. The friend is still in detention.
Arely was released under two conditions: that she get passports for the kids and leave the country with them ASAP and that she not fight the system -- I am not entirely sure what this means, can she sue the state? She has to go to court on Jan. 30 to provide proof she is making progress with the passports. They did her a favor, they released her eight days later. They are doing her a favor by demanding these United States Citizen children leave their country ASAP. They are doing her a favor.
When ICE and the Court exercise prosecutorial discretion, is that a favor or the ability to determine how a rule applies to a specific situation? This is an example of how the system prays on those who are ignorant about the procedures and have no funds to hire an attorney who can help them maneuver through this mess of a system.
Arely and Hector have been living off the money they saved from Hector’s job doing landscaping and painting; due to the winter weather he has been laid-off. A local Church is helping cover the $350+ cost for pictures and passports. That is alot of money for a family who is just getting by, but they must do everything possible to comply with their promise and not provoke Immigration Officials.
Neither Hector nor Arely have any history of being trouble makers, no violent crimes, no threats to society. Arely was detained in Arizona years ago when Lisania was just 3 months old. She spent 3 days in jail with her baby and immigration (Sheriff Arpaio, Maricopa County territory) accused her of having just crossed the border from Mexico with her baby. Arely told them her baby was a US citizen but of course they did not believe her - a Hispanic looking woman with a new baby, racial profiling comes to mind. The Guatemalan consulate got involved and provided the documentation needed to prove Lisania was a US Citizen. Both mom and daughter were released. Arely could have sought some sort of legal recourse, but as most immigrants this is not an option; they don't want to bring attention to themselves - they are here to work and live their dream. The only problem was that she never addressed the outstanding deportation order and she was then ordered deported "in absentia" - seriously, I have learned so much this past week from reading and doing research, my mind is overwhelmed with information.
How Hector was Detained
Hector had been working cleaning a bank along with another worker when they accidentally tripped the alarm upon entering the building. Of course the cops showed up, it's a bank! The police did clear them of any wrong doing but Border Patrol was called. Hector is to appear in Court on June 2013.
The children have been traumatized; they have seen their parents taken away. They are afraid of any police enforcement officer they see. Karen who is 5 yrs. old did not want to go to school. Jesus Angel who is 3 yrs. old cried everyday and did not want to leave his father's sight. Lisania who is 6 yrs. old, figured out her mother was taken as had happened to her father. She cried alot.
Arely was released on January 16 and the family went to Chucky Cheese where they celebrated Jesus Angel's birthday which is actually Jan. 10 but since Arely was in jail they could not celebrate it then -- the photo above was taken the on this day, you can see the children smiling.
The Sad Reality
This family is not the first or the last one that has gone through this type of separation. The immediate consequence is that immigrants are afraid of Police Enforcement even in cases of crime or when they need help. We look to our elected officials for help in not only protecting these United States Citizen children but to reform the broken immigration system in our country.
Fear continues to hinder the immigrant community's ability to come forward and share their stories about a broken immigration system that continues to destroy families.