Last Tuesday, 25- year old Sheena Perez walked to a detention center in Broadview, Illinois early in the morning, hoping to say goodbye to her boyfriend, Daniel Vega-Garcia, who was the father of her 18-month old son and was being deported to Mexico after living in the United States for 15 years. She had spent the greater part of Monday on the phone with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), trying to get some basic information about whether she could see him before he was sent away, what she could bring him, and what time she should be there. No one provided her with answers at ICE, and she finally got the information from the Mexican Consulate.
She arrived at the detention center carrying small bag with two T-shirts, two pairs of jeans, underwear- all that Daniel had asked for, as well as a present of cologne for him, and his favorite leather jacket. Sheena handed the bag over to guards who inspected it, returned the cologne to her, and handed it over to Daniel. Sheena had a few seconds to say “Adios” to Daniel from afar, and he was walked away, with his hands and legs shackled to his waist.
An hour later, the deportees were boarded onto a bus which would take them to O’Hare airport, from which Daniel would be flown to Texas and walked across the border to Mexico. Sheena waited for the bus to emerge from a garage, and she followed it, trying to get one last glimpse of her boyfriend, crying out his name. The windows were tinted gray so that no one could see in. After following the bus for a while she turned around, tired and resigned. She said that she had not figured out how to tell their son where his father was, or how she would live the life of a single parent.
This scene is repeated at the Broadview Detention Center every Tuesday and Friday between 8am and 11am as hundreds of shackled men and women are filed into buses and taken to the airport to be deported. From 5am to 7am their families come by to bring them clothes and see them for one last time. And just like Sheena, they barely get to even say goodbye to their loved ones.
Stories such as Sheena’s are a dime-a-dozen, and with the vast increase in enforcement over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of families have been separated as a result of one or more parent of U.S. citizen children being in detention or being deported. According to a Time Magazine article, 2009 saw the highest number of people deported, 387,790, up from 116,782 in 2001 and 349,041 in 2008. So far, 185,887 people have been deported this year, a record pace, which, if continued, will double last year’s record high. This increase has led to a direct increase in the numbers of U.S. citizen children who have been left behind as their parents were deported. While the numbers remain unclear because ICE does not keep detailed records of the families that deportees leave behind, a report released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last year found that between 1998 and 2007, ICE had deported 108,434 parents with U.S. citizen children.
Not surprisingly, there is no dearth of reports detailing how detrimental the deportation of a parent and the separation of families is for the children who get left behind. Earlier this year we wrote about a study published by the Urban Institute that looked at the way that children were affected by their parent’s detention and deportation. The study found that while prolonged of a parent resulted in deep behavioral changes in the eating and sleeping patterns of children, it also led to long-term effects such as “frequent crying, fear, anxiety, regression, clinginess, and aggressive behavior.” Moreover, long-term separation of a child from a parent as a result of deportation is “exceptionally harmful” for the growth and development of the child. Another report released last month by UC Davis and Berekley is based on a new analysis of data provided by DHS and further testifies to the harmful that deportation has on the well-being of children.
The cruel effect that the separation of families through deportation has had on thousands of parents, husbands, wives and children is yet another reason why laws like Arizona’s anti-immigrant, SB1070 are misguided, drawing resources and attention towards increased enforcement instead of fixing a system that is intrinsically broken.
While the Federal government is poised to file a lawsuit against Arizona’s harsh new law that takes immigration law into it’s own hands and makes it a crime to be undocumented in state, music artists and television personalities continue to protest the law and put pressure on the state to reconsider the law that has caused so much controversy for being unconstitutional and racist. Last week we brought you DJ Spooky and Chuck D’s version of the Public Enemy song, “By the Time I Get to Arizona.” This week, a multicultural group of 13 rappers from Arizona have brought out a music video featuring their diverse voices in protest of a law that they call “heartless and “racist.”
The video, directed by Carlos Berber, features artists DJ John Blaze, Tajji Sharp, Yung Face, Mr. Miranda, Ocean, Da’aron Anthony, Atllas, Chino D, Nyhtee, Pennywise, Rich Rico, Da Beast, and Queen YoNasDa. Beginning with a montage of images of people protesting the law, the video is a call to action that begins with the words, “My brothers and sisters, it’s time to rise, Arizona…the revolution, will be televised.” It warns, “You thought we were just going to sit back and say nothing, well guess what…You push us, we push back…They say you need strength in numbers, well I’ve got some friends with me, and we’ve got something to say.”
Queen YoNasDa, a Native-African American Hip-Hop artist who led the “Hip-Hop 4 Haiti” for Haiti fundraiser said that the new music video was a tool with which the diverse Hip-Hop community could take a stand against the harsh new law. Leading the collaboration, she said-
I requested the help of Arizona’s finest hip-hop artists to remake Public Enemy’s “By the Time I get to Arizona” to show the world that Arizona’s hip-hop community will not stand for this injustice and will unite our talent to demonstrate our activist roles and responsibility. All you need is one mic…
In addition to the inspiring 8 minute hip-hop video that calls for a revolution against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, The Daily Show has decided to take on SB1070 for the second time. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Jon Stewart sent his correspondent Jason Jones to a bar in New York city to see if he could round up some people that looked “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented. Jason Jones asked a number of people in the bar what they thought constituted “reasonable suspicion,” and the results were almost as ridiculous as the law itself. To see what he discovered, skip ahead to 10.20 in the episode.
Photo courtesy of thesouthernshift.com