|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.