Tuesday, June 05, 2018

What's the point?

This plea is scratched on a bench in immigration court where I sat in during a deportation hearing yesterday. The message is nowhere near as dramatic as Senator Jeff Merkley's videoed effort to investigate an immigration detention center for undocumented children in Brownsville. But both images bear witness to the Trump regime's cruel effort to Make America White Again.

Jose, whose hearing I attended, is the very type of the sort of immigrant caught up in the ICE dragnet. He came to the US from Mexico 24 years ago at age 15, driven by family poverty. He has worked here without papers ever since in the sort of unstable pick-up jobs that undergird the economy: yard cleaning, landscaping, laying down asphalt paving, tile hauling. He described his work history, exhaustively and proudly. I felt as if I was in the presence of a living instance of Marx's "reserve army of labor" -- a man used as hands and a back that can be summoned when the job is too painful or too dirty to attract people who have any other option, and then can be cast aside when his utility to employers has passed.

Jose formed a relationship, fathered a daughter, broke up with his child's mother -- but faithfully provided $200 a week in child support for nine years. He just kept working. He fell into the traps that are poverty. A broken taillight in 2001 led to a ticket for driving without a license (he was undocumented after all) -- but he never found out he had a ticket hanging over him because the notice was mailed to an address he'd left for another job ... He just kept working. In the superheated Bay Area housing market he decided the rent was just too high to allow him to continue to support his daughter, so he started sleeping in his car... He just kept working. Somebody complained, he was arrested in September 2017, and has been in immigration detention ever since, fighting to stay in this country with his child.

Another bit of unfinished legal business hangs over his case. He was found guilty of a DUI in 2014 and funneled into "diversion." Somehow he came up with the money to pay $2400 to the owner of a car he had sideswiped and partially completed a nine-month alcohol education program for which he was charged $200 a month. He claims to have given up drinking. But the program charges were more than he could earn and continue to support his daughter, so after four months he gave up the program. ... He just kept working. In detention, he's still proudly working; he told the court all about his voluntary work in the jail kitchens.

There are certainly legal justifications for Jose's deportation. But do we really want to deport someone who has lived, gainfully and usefully, among us for a quarter of a century and who is the loving responsible father of a US citizen child? Jose is collateral damage of several decades of Congressional inaction on the realities of immigration in the southwest US. Should his life be crushed because successive people with power never got around to creating equitable systems and rules?

What's the point, except to Make America White Again?

Yesterday's hearing was inconclusive, continued until a Stanford child specialist recruited by Jose's non-profit lawyers can evaluate the impact on Jose's daughter.


Rain Trueax said...

i want to see immigration reform for those already here; but unless we controlled entry, what this is about is keeping America cheap for labor (which won't help those who just got amnesty from the continuing wages that won't support a minimum lifestyle in places like CA.). The hypocrisy on what is at stake for the lower income Americans really gets me, as their (white or not) wages don't go up, while their cost of living does. Illegal laborers provide richer Americans with a labor force for their gardening, construction, maid services, etc. Sanctuary cities, as it is now, is about sounding righteous while profiting from keeping labor cheap-- with fear keeping workers from reporting bad bosses or asking for better pay. A hidden community benefits no one. Should the US have no control over who enter, which has been over a million a year-- legally.

janinsanfran said...

Hi Rain -- for some reason I didn't see your comment before. Watching this court proceeding really rubbed in for me how we in the US have been using people and abusing people who just want to work by failing to create an orderly process for immigration. There has to be a some process, but I agree with you that not having one has served the bosses and screwed the workers overall.

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