Campaign demands end to deportations tearing families apart
December 13, 2012
On December 12, dozens of children delivered thousands of letters to Capitol Hill, calling upon lawmakers to stop the senseless division of families that is caused by the deportation of mothers and fathers who are not a threat to anyone. The event was part of “A Wish for the Holidays,” a campaign with a simple but powerful message: “Every day, families across the country are separated by deportations and immigrant detentions. 5.5 million children live with the fear that a parent could be deported, and these policies threaten the fabric of all of our communities. It just isn’t right.”
As a new report from the IPC and First Focus points out, the 5.5 million children at risk of separation from their unauthorized immigrant parents include 4.5 million native-born U.S. citizens. But U.S. citizenship is not enough to save these children from being separated from one or both parents, or from years in the foster care system. That is what happened in the case of Felipe Montes, a father who has spent two years struggling to reunite with his three children, who were placed in foster care in North Carolina after his deportation to Mexico in late 2010.
The IPC/First Focus report describes how parents facing deportation must often make an agonizing choice: take their children with them to countries the children might not even know, or leave the children in the care of a relative or friend in the United States. At other times, as with Felipe Montes, parents lose the power to make even that basic decision when their children enter the child welfare system, a process which can eventually lead to the termination of parental rights.
No one knows for certain how many families are broken apart by deportations. Before 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not even track this information. However, the DHS Office of the Inspector Generalestimated that over 108,000 parents of U.S.-citizen children were removed from the United States between 1997 and 2007. A 2012 report by DHS stated that 46,486 parents of U.S.-citizen children were removed during the first six months of 2011. And the Applied Research Center (ARC) estimated that roughly 5,100 children with a detained or deported parent were in the public child welfare system in 2011. ARC also estimated that over the next five years an additional 15,000 children in the child welfare system could be at risk of permanent separation from a detained or deported parent.
As the IPC/First Focus report notes, there are several serious hurdles to family reunification once a parent is facing removal, or has already been removed, from the United States. First and foremost are the changes to U.S. immigration law enacted in 1996 that revoked the discretion of immigration judges to consider the harm that might be caused to a U.S.-citizen child by the removal of his or her parent. In addition, detained parents are often not informed of when they will be removed and may not be able to make travel arrangements for their child from behind bars. Moreover, if the child is already in the child welfare system, a judge or caseworker could determine that it is in the child’s best interest to remain in the United States rather than move to another country to be reunited with a deported parent.
Deportations under Obama: 370,000 in 2008. 390,000 in 2009. 393,000 in 2010. 397,000 in 2011.
hey, my brother’s girlfriend spoke at this event, she’s coming back today.
Aaron Gouveia and his wife were already having the worst day of their lives. Then came the abortion protesters. [Source]
“You’re killing your unborn baby!”
That’s what they yelled at me and my wife on the worst day of our lives. As we entered the women’s health center on an otherwise perfect summer morning in Brookline, two women we had never met decided to pile onto the nightmare we had been living for three weeks. These “Christians” verbally accosted us—judged us—as we steeled ourselves for the horror of making the unimaginable, but necessary, decision to end our pregnancy at 16 weeks.
After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival.
I’m not a religious person and I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will never forget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again.
Across a crowded street, two people with “God Is Pro-Life!” signs and pictures of torn-up fetuses managed to drive the blade in even deeper. Again, I was left trying to console the inconsolable, feeling even more helpless this time, because I wasn’t allowed into surgery with her.
Running on pure adrenaline, and without even a hint of a plan, I grabbed my cell phone and crossed the street. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, I just knew I wanted to make public the cowardice of these protesters. The video’s below—they didn’t disappoint.
I learned a few important things from this encounter. First, these people aren’t used to being confronted. They prey on the weak and they pounce on the wounded. It’s easy to berate people and shame them when they’re too beaten down to fight back. But I chose to do just that, and you can see what happened.
They spout the same tired rhetoric passed out at rallies and subway stations. They don’t have one salient response to any of my questions.
The most telling thing about their cowardice is when the woman on the right gets upset that I’m recording the conversation (which is perfectly legal) and then threatens to call the police. The irony is rich. She wanted to call the police because I was peacefully expressing my opinion on a public sidewalk and exercising my First Amendment rights, which is exactly what she was doing. But I’m not on “God’s side,” am I.
She also claims the women at the clinic are suicide risks. Even if she believed that were true, does she really think yelling at them and shaming them in public is going to encourage these women not to kill themselves?
After I took a walk and calmed down, it was time to pick up my wife and go home. When we pulled out of the clinic, the protesters were gone, and a police cruiser was parked nearby with the lights flashing. My wife, still groggy from the surgery, managed to crack a little smile, and asked, “What did you do?”
I have no idea if it was my interaction with the protesters that got them to leave. I doubt it was, but my wife was convinced that was the case. At first, I didn’t think of it as a big deal, and I actually felt a little foolish for getting so heated.
My wife, suddenly serious, pointed out a women entering the clinic. Within minutes, she said, that woman would be making a serious choice. Whether she kept her baby or not, it didn’t matter—what matters is that she can make the decision that’s right for her. And she can make it without people screaming at her.
My wife and I wanted our second child. We loved her. We even had a name for her, Alexandra.
You never know the circumstances surrounding this kind of decision. Consider this my plea: stop terrorizing women. Stop adding trauma to their trauma. If you’re able, stand up to these bullies in nonviolent ways. Speak out. And if you have a camera, use it.
—Aaron Gouveia is a regular contributor to The Good Men Project Magazine.
“The pressures on gay teens can be overwhelming—to keep secrets, tell lies, deny who you are, and try to be who you’re not. Remember: you are special and worth being cared about, loved, and accepted just as you are. Never, ever let anyone convince you otherwise.”
stop trying to deny me the rights that all people deserve.
Many of the trans folks I have talked to were over the moon when Donald Trump announced on Friday’s 20/20 that the discriminatory ban on trans women competing in the Miss Universe pageant would be lifted, not only allowing Jenna Talackova to compete but opening the pageant to trans women who want to compete in the future. This is something many of us called for just last week. If only other transgender-related civil rights struggles could be resolved this quickly! For example, we have been trying to get the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passed in New York for the past 10 years. In the state of New York It’s still legal to fire transgender people from our jobs just for being trans. Trans people face disproportionate amounts of discrimination in housing and health care and are often victims of violence simply for being who we are. Jenna’s victory against discrimination in the Miss Universe pageant will be for naught if we don’t use it to shine a light on the struggles that have yet to be won for trans people around the world.
I initially wanted this piece to go on to talk about the problematic line of questioning Barbara Walters used to interview Jenna on 20/20, a line of questioning that transgender people all over the country were dismayed by and found cringeworthy. Walters asked Jenna a series of questions that sensationalized Jenna’s story by focusing too much on surgery and body parts, under the rubric of asking questions everyone wants to know the answers to without really questioning why people want to know these things. This is a huge issue when it comes to representing trans people in the media. I encourage everyone to read the chapter of Julia Serrano’s book Whipping Girl titled “Before and After: Class and Body Transformation.” She illuminates this problem brilliantly.
But today I received an email on Facebook from Jean Smith reminding me of the CeCe McDonald case. CeCe, like Jenna, is also 23 years old and transgender. But unlike Jenna, CeCe is an African-American woman from Minneapolis, Minn., and she is currently incarcerated, facing two counts of second-degree murder. On June 5, 2011 CeCe and a group of her friends, all of whom were LGBT youth of color, were walking in South Minneapolis when a group of white adults began screaming racist and transphobic slurs like “niggers,” “faggots” and “chicks with dicks” at the youth. According to reports CeCe stood up for herself and her friends, stating that they would not tolerate hate speech. Then one of the white adult women smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. The broken glass sliced all the way through CeCe’s cheek, lacerating a salivary gland. A fight ensued, resulting in the death of one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz. CeCe was the only person arrested. She was detained by the police for hours before questioning, and then she was placed in solitary confinement.
What strikes me about this case is that often trans people end up dead when these kinds of incidents happen. An African-American trans woman, Coko Williams, was murdered in Detroit just last week. Qasim Raqib was sentenced last month to 25 to 40 years in prison for the brutal killing of 19-year-old trans woman Michele “Shelley” Hilliard, whom he dismembered and burned last year. I believe it’s a tragedy when anyone loses his or her life, particularly as a result of violence, but according to all accounts, CeCe was just defending herself against a racist and transphobic assault. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman has the power to drop the charges based on self-defense, as he has done before. The Support CeCe McDonald website writes:While Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald is being prosecuted for murder after being violently attacked for her race and gender, Freeman’s office recently declined to prosecute the killer of Darrell Evanovich, a black man who was shot dead by a white man after an alleged robbery. While no person should be thrown to the mercy of the soulless, so-called “justice” system, the fact that CeCe is on trial after being assaulted, while a white man who killed someone after chasing them down is touted as a “good Samaritan,” highlights the racist and transphobic nature of the prosecution of CeCe. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Marlene Senechal have the power to drop the charges against CeCe. So far, though, he has implicitly sided with CeCe’s white supremacist attackers by failing to acknowledge the racist, transphobic assault that she survived as a mitigating factor in the unintentional death of Dean Schmitz.
CeCe has no criminal record, was enrolled in school at the time of the incident, and was also working to help take care of her family. This case highlights how even when trans people, particularly trans people of color, are lucky enough to survive the brutal violence that is a part of so many of our lives, we are all too often victimized all over again by the criminal justice system. This is the definition of injustice.