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Deporting Parents


What happens when our unjust immigration system deports parents of children who are under 18? It’s usually pretty grim. Orange is the New Black actress Diane Guerrero’s story is about as good as it is going to get:

And then one day, my fears were realized. I came home from school to an empty house. Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn’t there. Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over.

Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me. No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own.

While awaiting deportation proceedings, my parents remained in detention near Boston, so I could visit them. They would have liked to fight deportation, but without a lawyer and an immigration system that rarely gives judges the discretion to allow families to stay together, they never had a chance. Finally, they agreed for me to continue my education at Boston Arts Academy, a performing arts high school, and the parents of friends graciously took me in.

Being 14, having friends with generous parents, a great high school, this is not the norm. Even here, her family was deported and she was left behind, separated from her parents during many of the most important moments of her life. This is a horrible thing that does no one any good. Completely unjustified and it’s about time that President Obama take more concrete steps to deal with this unjust system, even without Congressional approval.

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  • c u n d gulag

    Pandering to the conservatives has gained Obama absolutely nothing over the last 6 years.
    And certainly not on the issue of immigration reform.

    Finally, he’s starting to say, “You know what? Fuck it! And fuck them! I’m doing what I can alone. You want to impeach me? Go right ahead!”

    This issue would be a great place to start.
    Separating stable families – regardless of their immigration status – is stupid and unconsciously harmful.

    My parents were welcome as immigrants because after WWII, they were from Russia and Ukraine.
    In different circumstances, there but for the grace of the FSM go I – and they…

  • Murc

    I know far, far too many people who, on reading this, would not say “That poor girl, we shouldn’t deport her parents” but rather “Those parents are total scumbags. They knowingly committed a crime by coming here and then had a kid while living as criminal fugitives. There’s a very real possibility they had that kid solely to anchor them to the place they were trespassing in, which is a vile thing to do to a child. And then, to top it off, they ditched that kid onto other people when they were caught instead of taking her with them. They should be ashamed.”

    “Oh, what, the girl? Yeah, I kind of feel for her, but you don’t negotiate with hostage-takers, and that’s what her parents are doing; using their kid as leverage. I won’t have any of that. If they’re deciding to abandon her, she’s better off without them anyway.”

    This would often segue into a rant about how their ancestors came here legally. For certain obscured values of “legally” at least.

    Oh, christ. Thanksgiving is coming up. Maybe I can arrive pre-drunk this year.

    • Origami Isopod

      I peeked into the L.A. Times comments, and they were considerably worse than that. Plenty of them aren’t even pretending to concern about the kids.

      • BigDaddyJ

        Yep, the average comment seems to be (literally): “I don’t care. She’s an idiot, she could have gone back with her parents. Besides, look, she’s a well-known actress, it worked out OK.” And this is the LA Times, not a Texas newspaper.

        Alas, these articles aren’t going to convince anyone opposed to immigration, the anti-immigration talking points have been drilled in too deep. I hope it can mobilize supporters at the ballot box long-term, but the next two years aren’t going to be fun.

        • Aimai

          Pity, sympathy, empathy–these have all been jettisoned by the modern Republican party as sources of the choices we make politically. In fact, like the hatred of broccoli, their attitude reflects the knee jerk resentment of the child for what the child sees as the unjustified interference of the parent in the pursuit of the untrammeled Id. You see it very predictibly in online comments and tea party discussions of everything from the horrors of the “nanny state” to any description of a person in the news as needing help/attention/care.

          Over at Annie’s Mailbox as soon as the regular commenters have decided who, in a letter asking for advice, is the weaker party they will regularly get together and decry that person and demand that that person be punished for their weakness. People will explicitly say things like “feminists say that men shouldn’t bully or strike women but its just as bad when women are weak and cry or need help–that’s a different form of bullying!” The very act of asking for sympathy and help (such as the child refugees, a sick person, a dying person) is seen as an unfair “trick” or a kind of improper intrusion of “emotion” into what should be a purely rational (i.e. self oriented, money defined) sphere such as politics.

          • BigDaddyJ

            Bingo. And the problem is, the Republicans are incredibly effective at gathering frustrated people of various shapes into the blame game.

            It’s despotic behavior that’s common amongst many right-wing movements around the world — harness anger, point it at someone else, and keep them distracted while implementing your own agenda. In retrospect, it’s surprising it took so long to take this deep a root here.

            • Origami Isopod

              In retrospect, it’s surprising it took so long to take this deep a root here.

              Huh? This has gone on forever in the US.

        • Origami Isopod

          And this is the LA Times, not a Texas newspaper.

          Nearly all newspaper comment sections are cesspits. But I’ll point out that Southern California is pretty conservative, and I shouldn’t have to mention the history of the LAPD.

          • Jackov

            Southern California is only pretty conservative if you a)compare it to the Bay Area or b) are interested in area instead of people

            The LA Times subscriber base, editorial board, internet commenters and those who submit letters to the editor do suck in exponentially increasing order.

            • Origami Isopod

              Southern California is only pretty conservative if you a)compare it to the Bay Area or b) are interested in area instead of people

              Okay? I’m going by the fact that it spawned John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, the megachurch, and the Ayn Rand Institute.

    • DonN

      This is a subject I can’t discuss at home, anymore. My wife came here when she was 15. Her parents were in their 50s and didn’t speak English. They waited more than 10 years in communist China to be allowed entry. In China, Her parents were given jobs that made them leave my wife with relatives and friends for years just because they applied. When they got here it was living in a garage and a basement for some years. I try to use the empathy, sympathy argument but it doesn’t work. They ask why should people who sneak across the border get preference over their family who wants to come but doesnt share a border. I really don’t have an answer except I think the borders should more or less be open.

      • Murc

        Honestly? I don’t have many problems with folks who take the stance “people should only come here legally” as long as it isn’t paired with “and that should be nearly impossible unless you’re already rich and connected.” Those people are dirtbags.

        I would be absolutely fascinated to know what opinion your wife’s family has toward the people from their old country who cram themselves illegally into disease-ridden shipping containers and pay smugglers their life savings to make it to the US. If it is different than their opinion towards people who walk across the desert after being abandoned by coyotes, well… that doesn’t speak well of them.

        • DonN

          You are assuming stupid stuff. They think there is a process and everybody should follow it. There isn’t any tribalism. As a personal thing I find it silly.

  • Gregor Sansa

    More-open immigration policy would be good for everyone, including US workers. More people -> bigger economy, where first-language English is rarer -> more jobs for low-skill natives. Research supports that.

    It would clearly be better for minor citizen children.

    Yes, it is worth thinking about how to structure the welfare state so as not to draw in people on the dole. That is so far from being our problem right now, especially since the biggest program (Social Security) is already something that you can’t draw out if you never paid in.

    More directly on-topic: my family and I would happily take in a child whose parents were deported. I have very little idea how we’d go about doing that. And I suspect that most people would have even less idea than I do.

  • Aimai

    This almost happened to the guy who does my garden. He and his wife are both incredible assets to this country and he’s been here at least 15 years and has two very young children. At the last minute he was granted a green card and permitted to stay and start the citizenship process. But for a while it looked like he would be deported and the children and wife left to fend for themselves here.

    • DocAmazing

      I regularly work with immigration attorneys to keep parents of children with significant medical needs from being deported. Fortunately, most of the immigration judges around here are fairly enlightened.

      • Aimai

        There was a horrible case a while ago–can’t remember where it took place but I think it was down south–where the “illegal” immigrant parent was the only one able to work and able to keep his disabled wife and children out of the poorhouse and yet they threatened to deport him.

  • Davis X. Machina

    This is a horrible thing that does no one any good.

    This is a horrible thing that does no one not running for office any good.

    • Fair enough

      • Davis X. Machina

        Goodbye “E pluribus unum”, hello “Just win, baby.”

  • joe from Lowell

    ICE deported an African artist from Lowell a few years ago. He had a storefront downtown where he displayed and sold his art. It was right in the downtown arts district, which is one of the city’s big economic development initiatives. I remember one year he sponsored a reggae act during the Folk Fesival.

    So, now the store’s gone. It sure was great for our society that people like him get deported.

    When someone builds a life here, they aren’t building an island. They have connections, people who depend on them. Socially, professionally, whatever.

    When they deported that guy, they left a hole in the city. A little one, maybe, but still – they came into our city, and they did it some damage.

    • And it’s not like Lowell can afford a lot of new holes opening. Or Providence for that matter.

      • Aimai

        Canada encourages people to immigrate into Canada if they bring a certain amount of money with them, IIRC. It boggles my mind that there isn’t a points system for immigrants in this country that if you are owning/running a business, building a family, contributing to society, promise to vote as soon as you are a citizen, supporting other people, that you can’t be given some kind of “points towards speedy citizenship.” I don’t mean that we should have a system that priviliges the wealthy, rentier, class and allows them to shop for citizenship with cash. I mean we should have a way of describing the ideal working class/middle class productive citizen and giving those people a boost up.

        • NewishLawyer

          There is a U.S. version of that but I think it requires a lot of capital. Something like 500K which is more capital than even most Americans have.

          • Ronan

            I think it was less than that.I remember looking into it more generally a few years ago.(cant find it at the minute) was something more like if you can invest 100k you can get citizenship/or some sort of l/t permanency (might be different for different regions though, i dont know)

            edit: you were right


          • Ronan

            there are more other ways to fast-track residency though, arent there ? specific skillsets/levels of educational attainment etc
            I dont know how I feel about those (particularly if they work as a replacement for, rather than addition to low skilled immigration.)

        • JL

          I mean we should have a way of describing the ideal working class/middle class productive citizen…

          I predict this selecting against poor people, unmarried people (which defacto probably also means queer and trans people), people with criminal histories (even if those involve political activity, or things like sex work that shouldn’t be criminalized), and people with disabilities. I sometimes hear people advocate for military service as part of a system like this too, which adds a whole other layer of bad.

          • Origami Isopod


            People’s worth shouldn’t be defined by their class or how “productive” they are. We need to move away from that shit.

          • Ronan

            i should have read this first before posting above. yeah this would be my worry as well (sort of like using immigration as a headhunting service)

      • joe from Lowell

        I don’t think these anti-immigrant people understand that immigrants are good for our cities.

        They think, Erik, that you and I are liberal hippie degenerates who are willing to put up with immigrants for the same reasons we’re probably willing to put up with dirty syringes and the constant twice-daily muggings that all urban dwellers enjoy.

        They don’t understand that they’re opening little stores and…well…you know…being the consumers and the eyes on the street and all the other things that cities and societies need people for.

        • I also suspect the correlation between people who hate immigrants and people who hate cities is pretty strong.

          • BigDaddyJ

            Correlation’s not good enough, though.

            I have a cousin that lives in Mumbai, and her husband, when visiting us, took me aside and complimented me on living in the neighborhood I do, because I don’t live near those “black people.” (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there is a middle-class Latino neighborhood nearby. Who will probably be gentrified out before long, but that’s another story…)

            Humanity, sigh, it separates itself whenever it can.

            • Traditionally plenty of anti-black racism in Chinatowns too. There’s hope for the young though since they’re hip-hop-crazed.

              This is a really nice thread.

        • NewishLawyer

          I am going to join Erik’s suspicion.

    • Davis X. Machina

      But everyone can now point to the hole where the store used to be and use it to inculcate an invaluable and salutary lesson about keeping your head down.

      Surely that’s more valuable than any small business or community leadership.

  • Brett

    If you’ve been here more than 2-3 years without committing a felony, or have American-citizen children who have lived here for their entire lives, they should just give you a damn green card (with any fees waived if you can speak and write in fluent English). Deporting people who are years displaced from their country of origin and integrating into America’s economy and society is stupid regardless of whether they came illegally or legally.

    It’s not entirely fair to people who went through the trouble that is the legal immigration system, but that’s because the legal system needs massive reform as well to make it faster and more humane.

    • Davis X. Machina

      The bracing effect of social Darwinism, its laudable improvement of moral tone, and its encouragement of entrepreneurial spirit, somehow don’t seem to apply to these people, no matter how powerfully the same effect applies to the native-born.

  • LeeEsq

    I work as an immigration lawyer and this story doesn’t seem procedural correct. According to Wikipedia, Diane Guerrero was born in 1986. This means that this story happened in 2000. Assuming that her parents had no prior deportation, exclusion, or removal orders against them; they should have been first been given a hearing in order to determine their removability by the government. They should have also been given the opportunity to apply for any available relief. In the case of Ms. Guerrero’s parents, assuming they had no prior order against them, they were at least eligible for Cancellation of Removal under EOIR 42B. This means that because the have a minor U.S citizen child, they could receive permanent residence if they can approve that it would be an extreme and exceptional hardship on their daughter if they are removed from the United States. You can’t just remove an undocumented alien because that is considered a violation of due process rights.

    I’m not saying that this didn’t happened. The immigration system differs in practice than theory to the detriment and benefit of many aliens. Its certainly possible that Ms. Guerrero’s parents and older brother could have just been removed but Boston immigration does tend to take procedural aspects seriously even if they aren’t extraordinarily friendly towards aliens.

    • Damn shame they couldn’t retain an attorney, then.

      • LeeEsq

        From personal experience, Latin American immigrants are more likely to rely on legal service organizations for their immigration needs. Immigrants from other places like Africa, China, or the former Soviet countries are likely to splurge for a private attorney.

        • Aimai

          Well, that’s as may be but I know many Brazilians who have paid private attorneys to help them with their immigration needs and who found themselves getting ripped off that way.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Perhaps the Latin American immigrants LeeEsq has personal experience of have, themselves, knowledge of the fate of those Brazilians, and have decided to conduct themselves accordingly?

          • LeeEsq

            As a private immigration lawyer, I disagree with this assessment. Your more likely to get individualized concern from a private lawyer than a legal aid lawyer. I think that Latin American immigrants turn more to legal aid organizations than other immigrant groups because most of the legal aid organizations are geared up to help them than other groups.

  • Samquilla

    Also, immigration often asks people if they want to waive their hearing and just be deported and people who don’t have the means to hire an attorney and are sitting in detention looking at a hearing a year or more away…may choose to give up and waive.

    I mean, why were they sitting in detention rather than on bond?

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