In Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Part One

Meeting to discuss border patrol abuse at LUPE offices

One evening, about a month ago, a man was pulled over to the side of the road by one of the city of Mission’s police patrols.  The fellow was arrested, and then, he disappeared. Frantic, his wife went from the city jail to the county jail, unsuccessfully trying to find her husband. Finally, she got a phone call from him. He was calling her from Mexico, having been deported.

Her husband had been in the country, without immigration documents, for some time. His wife is an American citizen, as is their three-year-old daughter.
In my poor understanding of the arrest and removal process that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses, there is a place for someone to ask for a hearing before an immigration judge, a moment when the detained person could say, for instance, “I have lived here for a long time, I have an American citizen wife and daughter who depend upon me and I want to appeal my removal.”
Perhaps this fellow signed away his right to that hearing; perhaps he had a hearing (I doubt it). In any case, the wife was not a part of any of this. She only knew that her husband had been ripped out of her life, removed from his daughter and now was gone.
She took her sadness and consternation and anger to a LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Libre) office. LUPE, coincidentally, has been actively organizing the community to campaign against what is known as the Secure Communities Program, an ICE operation that co-opts local policing with ICE’s intent to deport anyone and everyone that they can find–whether the person is a violent criminal (12% of the time) or someone who could have a wife and a three year old (88% of the time). 

Shortly after the woman’s complaint, LUPE’s organizers joined with other area community-based organizations from the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network and visited the Mission police department. The police official was attentive and sensitive. He wrote down the information on the man’s arrest, and promised to investigate (not that he could do a blessed, or a damned thing, to get the woman’s husband back). He also listened as we spoke about secure communities and the horrors that the program has caused so many, many of our families.
Separations, disappearances, lives and families ruined.
Imagine if your dad never returned home from work. And wasn’t, ever, coming back home.
Imagine if, one fine September day, your granddaughter’s father was taken from her, forever.
Would you feel secure? Should she feel secure?
I don’t. We don’t.
Statistics on the results of the secure communities’ program can be found here: http://uncoverthetruth.org/wp-content/uploads/ICE-8.18.11-Reproduction.zip

Hope

 Last week, about three hundred well-dressed, focused people met for two straight days on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville. They were participants in the Vista Summit, a gathering sponsored by the University of Texas system and several philanthropic groups. The group spoke to our region’s dilemma—how to release the extraordinary potential of this part of America, given the equally extraordinary lack of public and private resources? More specifically and to the point was the challenge to those charged with public education—how is it possible that the Rio Grande Valley, a place whose culture places huge importance upon education, a region of immigrants who, over and again, acknowledge that the key to their families’ future lies in education, have such poor outcomes?


Half of the children who enter Rio Grande Valley high schools do not graduate. There is no high tech industry to speak of, and the reason given, over and again—the work force is not trained for the skills required by industry.

March to Occupy McAllen

Last week, about three hundred, comfortably-dressed, focused people met for an evening of marching on the streets of McAllen, Texas, a city just up the highway from Brownsville. They were participants in the OccupyMcAllen Action, a gathering fuelled mostly by university students and following the lead of the young people who have occupied Wall Street for the past month. This group of people marched through town and spoke to a delimma shared not only by our region (although in a special way) but by the entire world—how to release the enormous potential of the 99% of us when 1% per cent have a strangle hold on the world’s resources.


The cynic in me would like to dismiss both gatherings—one more think tank, one more march, what does it matter?


Hope, however, continues to rest upon its perch in my soul, and, cynic or not, I have to say that I found it amazing that so many people filled a room for two full days to wrestle, with hope, with troubles that have been around for a long time. And the march in McAllen, especially when linked with the others going on around the country, I found to be joy-filled. I was especially struck by the comments I overheard a very young man giving to a reporter. When asked “Why are you doing this?” he responded, “We are not doing this for ourselves, but for our grandchildren.”


“We,” he said, aware that the starting point was not himself, alone, but an entire world of people, the “99%.”


“We are doing this for our grandchildren,” he said, this twenty year old, who, although he had no children of his own, was already learning how to look off into the future, planning on being a father and a grandfather.


He, too, has hope.


Cynics, beware.