A Letter on Father’s Day…

In acknowledgement of Father’s Day, I would like to share a letter written by Yamil Jr., the son of my friend Claudia. This will be the second year he can’t be with his dad on Father’s Day because of the U.S. detention system. 

Through his story, we see the dysfunction and inhumanity of U.S. immigration and detention policies that need to be challenged. To put it simply, detention and criminalization of migrants who are seeking refuge and a better life must end. This is a battle we must fight on both sides of the border, #DeAquiyDeAlla, and those of us who are in Mexico we’ll be loud about it. Who in the U.S. is going to stand with us?

My dad is like any other person and one day he had many dreams like I have now, and when he was 19 years old he decided to go after them. He left everything in Mexico and settled in Wichita, Kansas, where he met my mom and it is here where I was born and grew up until I was 6. But one day a judge decided to deport my dad, which forced my mom and me to leave our home because we had to go with my dad, he was always our support. I also felt I was being deported from my own country. My dad is my hero and for me, he is a soccer superstar. I grew up watching the soccer games he played and now, I am also a soccer player and I play the sport with the same passion he did.

It’s been almost two years since I returned to my country and home in the U.S. with my mom after she joined the “Bring Them Home” campaign and was part of the #Dream9. She was also detained for two weeks as my dad is now, but unlike my mom, they are no letting him come home, he is not allowed to come out of that place where I could only visit him 2 times in almost two years.

This August I will start high school and I will be playing for my school’s soccer team. My dad taught me everything I know and he always gave me advice for my games, with his help I learned to multiply, and how to add and subtract. Now I feel very confused. I don’t know what to do without him. My middle school teachers tell me that I’m a good soccer player, that if I improve my grades I can get a good scholarship to go to college, which is one of my dreams, but when I think about the years ahead in high school, I feel very lonely without my dad. My mom is great and in these months that my dad has been in detention, she has not stopped working so that I continue to move forward, but I see her and I realize how difficult it’s for her to be alone in her own legal fight. But this is our home, we want to be here, I see my future here, I don’t want to go back to Mexico. There I lived in fear, thinking that I could die at any moment, from the beginning I never felt welcomed, I attended 5 different elementary schools, my dad was kidnapped by corrupt police officers just for ransom; my grandfather, my uncle and two of my mom’s uncles were killed in Mexico, and no one has done anything about it. I feel safe here but I also need my parents with me.

Yamil and his dad

If my dad was here, our lives would be better, my mom would not have to work two jobs and I could focus on my dreams with the support of both my mom and dad. But that’s not how it is, I know I have to work harder to succeed but without my dad I feel very lonely, I keep waiting for him but it seems forever, I feel angry because my dad is locked up for simply wanting to be with me. We are a small family.

What makes me happy is that my mom and dad love each other very much but I need to know, why do we have to be separated? Why has my dad been detained for 20 months in Eloy, Arizona? He has remained strong because he knows that if we go back to Mexico, our lives are in danger and he needs to know that we are going to be well.

Today is Father’s Day and I miss my dad more than ever. I don’t want to feel alone and I don’t know if I’m the only one going through this. Does anybody have a magic wand? Who has the power to bring our family back together? I no longer want to be without him, we have never hurt anyone, he needs to come home.

Dad, if you read this letter, I want to tell you that I miss you, I need you, I need your advice, I wished we could play soccer and the Xbox games we’ve always liked to play together, watching movies, eating the burgers you cook, I want you to see how happy I am since I returned to where I was born. Having you by my side would make me the happiest person on this planet. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.

(Yamil Yaujar Amaro)

Click HERE for Spanish translation.

Audio recording (Spanish) of Yamil Jr. calling his dad at Eloy Detention Center this morning to wish him a Happy Father’s Day:

More on Yamil’s case on Newsweek (Spanish)

Please like “Yamil Needs His Dad” Facebook page.

#FathersDay #EndDetention #WeBelongTogether

When “Getting in Line” Becomes a Long Nightmare

The story of Òmìnira (pseudonym) shows the diversity of undocumented youth in the U.S., whose struggles are often attributed to the Latino (or Mexican) immigrant communities. Òmìnira is a DREAMer from Nigeria who faces the challenges of an undocumented status as a result of an immigration system and its actors which pray and benefit from the vulnerability of migrants. Unfortunately, Òmìnira did not qualify under President Obama’s Executive Order issued in June 2012 (Deferred Action) which would have granted her a temporary permit due to the age requirement. Today, she faces an uncertain future as a result of the political standstill on immigration reform.

I am thankful to Òmìnira for reaching out and sharing her story through Mundo Citizen, as it is one that highlights the complexity of an arbitrary immigration system. It dispels the ‘get in the line’ or ‘follow the law’ argument anti-immigration proponents like to spout in their attempt to defend a system that fails to account for fairness, justice, and simply… humanity.

When “Getting in Line” Becomes a Long Nightmare

by Òmìnira

I am not supposed to be undocumented.  After all, I followed the rules. As the anti-immigration proponents would have it, I tried to get “in line.” So interested was my family in getting in line that we have so far employed the assistance of four (4) different immigration attorneys. But as reality would have it the legal immigration process or “the line” is arbitrary and complicated, and for these very reasons it is easy for lawyers and legal representatives to prey on the legally vulnerable.

Let me explain.

When I was 14 years old my father was granted political asylum in the United States. My father has been a political journalist since the 70s and was a member of an underground opposition group protesting Nigeria’s successive military dictatorships. For this, my paternal grandmother and my eldest brother were shot, our house set on fire (my right leg sustained a 2nd degree burn, I call it my battle scar), and my father sentenced to jail, in absentia. When the asylum application was granted, my family was in a host country and two years later (at 16 years old) we came to join my father in the United States. For the first time in a long while we were not only safe but also free to start a life, any life.

Or so we thought. At the time, the lawyer working on my father’s case advised him that it was not necessary to file a separate derivative asylee relative application for us since he had listed my siblings and I on his granted asylum application. A grave mistake! This same lawyer was later suspended on three occasions including, finally by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BOIA). He was charged with violating several rules requiring an attorney to represent his clients competently. But by then the damage was partly done, we had missed the two-year filling period for the derivative application.

My family then turned to lawyer #2 following recommendations from a number of people. Lawyer #2 ran an international humanitarian organization. After reviewing our case, he advised that since the two-year filling period had passed I had to file an individual asylum application based on my fathers granted case and in this application we would explain the delay in filing. And so we filed the application. Another big mistake. During the interview with the Asylum Officer, (which the lawyer failed to attend), we were asked why my father had not filed the derivative asylee application instead given the nature of the case. In the end, the Asylum officer sent a referral notice stating that:

Although you have established changed circumstances materially affecting your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your delay in filing, you failed to file your application within a reasonable period of time given those circumstances.

Unsurprisingly, I was thereafter served the dreaded Notice to Appear (NTA) before an immigration judge. To prepare for court, we asked lawyer # 2 to represent us at the court at which point he revealed that he was not in fact an immigration attorney but actually a notary!!!  (A 2009 article by The Washington Examiner finally exposed lawyer #2 for running a fraudulent immigration practice following a number of complaints).

In desperation, my family searched for a new attorney. Many did not want to take the case but finally we engaged the assistance of lawyer #3.  As advised, my family checked to make certain that he was in fact an immigration attorney and engaged him to help us sort through my immigration mess mess.

Lawyer # 3 explained to the immigration judge that he would file the proper derivative application, explaining the delay and also an immigrant relative petition based on my father who was now a permanent resident. This request was granted and we accordingly hurriedly provided lawyer # 3 with all the documents and signed papers. After 4 years and 4 hearings lawyer # 3 asked for an individual hearing, against the suggestions of the judge. A disastrous mistake! You see lawyer #3 never filed the I-130, filed the I-730 but never gave an explanation for the delay, and instead tried to file an adjustment of status based on my father’s granted asylum application, a process, which is not legally possible!!! During the trial, the government attorney and judge seemed baffled that he had not filed the 1-130 all this time, when it seemed the most logical thing to do. After a tense debate, the judge finally denied the case based on abandonment (the lawyer couldn’t find my biometrics just as in an earlier hearing he had failed to send the court my medical information, although these were later found in his files).

I was ordered deported. The ultimate nightmare had arrived.

It is hard to explain the emotions running through me in the hours and days after the deportation order or to express the perpetual frustration, fear, and immense sadness of trying again and again over 8 years to get it right and never quite succeeding. Nor is it easy to explain struggling to accomplish things like getting an education, opening a bank account, or obtaining identification, when for all intents and purposes the system maintains that you shouldn’t exist, you don’t exist, and your existence itself is a crime (illegal). The fact that I’ve tried to follow the rules doesn’t matter, my failure at the hands of others seemingly speaks of my criminality. Yet it is so easy for politicians to brandish me and others like me, people seeking life, liberty, and happiness as simply illegal.

Edited Photo Credit: photo credit: Michael Fleshman via photopin cc
Edited Photo, Credit: Michael Fleshman via photopin cc

In the end I was not deported. With the help of an incredible attorney, lawyer #4, a Motion to Reopen my case was granted as well as an administrative closure. This has allowed my father (now a U.S citizen) to apply for an immigrant visa for me. This is a BIG relief yet my dreams and goals remain elusive. The immigrant visa will take about 6 years to process and in while I know I have the skills to do so much, all I can do is wait: wait to work, wait to travel, wait to live. Ironically, when the immigrant visa application is complete, I still must leave the U.S. in order to adjust my status thus invoking a 10-year bar to re-entry.

And so I wonder, why not abandon it all?  Give it up and walk away. Perhaps by giving this all up I might have a chance to live not just exist somewhere else. I really truly wonder….

Guest Voice – The “Voluntary Departure”

Meet Fredi, who shares with us his experience as a returned Dreamer. I talked about him in a previous post, the Dreamer I met at my “Coming Out” in Tijuana during the book presentation of Dreamers.

Fredi: Thank you for your courage. My hope is that this continues to inspire others who are here in Mexico willing to “come out” about their experiences.

With Dreamer Fredi at Dreamers Book Presentation
With Dreamer Fredi at book presentation of “Dreamers.La Lucha de Una Generación Por Su Sueño Americano”(Spanish Edition) written by Eileen Truax  | June 13 2013

It was May 2, 2011. It was also my sister’s birthday and it would be unthinkable for me to leave and not stay to spend time with her. But I had to depart in order to meet the deadline set by the immigration judge four months earlier. The deadline was set for May 4. Prior to my immigration court date, I had talked to my family and decided on a “voluntary departure”. It was the most difficult decision that I’ve ever made in my life. This meant not seeing my parents and sister, and moving to a country that I barely remembered from 20 years ago.

That day, I found myself returning to Tijuana. Early memories of Tijuana were from the day we crossed the border as undocumented immigrants… the helicopter was hovering over us. We were covered with cardboard and all I could see was the high beams of light. Man, it was a miracle because the helicopter (or “mosco” as we called in Spanish) moved away without detecting us.

That early Monday when I was scheduled to leave, I woke up early to pack my clothes and some books. My close friends picked me up. I hugged my mom and reassured her that everything was going to be OK. It was heartbreaking! I told her about my plans of working hard and pursuing my PhD. I told her about my plans to return to the U.S. as an international student which I’m still working on. Those last words gave her peace. She knew that I would work hard. Prior to that day, she had witnessed those long sleepless nights while working to finish my Master’s Degree and it paid off. I was able to complete it prior to my “voluntary departure”.

As we drove to the US-Mexico border, I was thinking about my life of 20 years in the United States and how I saw it changed in so many ways. I lived 45 minutes away from the border in Vista, CA, located in North San Diego County. Flashback memories crossed my mind; buying a soda can for 25 cents at the ampm gas station for the first time or even hiding every time I would hear a helicopter because I thought that they were chasing after us. I also remembered those first days of high school and how challenging it was to learn English. I had memories of my experiences of racism when students did not want to work with me because of my accent or when a white student threw a whiteout at me and laughed about it.

We crossed the border with mixed emotions. I was sad to leave my family but was happy because I was about to see my brother who had been deported two years earlier. My life at that moment was filled with uncertainty, not knowing what was to come.

I felt lonely and hit rock bottom with days of depression. I thought I was the only Dreamer who was forced to return because I was not able to find a person with a similar situation. I was wrong. I began to hear stories of Dreamers and other deportees. But to this day, I still don’t feel like I belong. I feel out of place. Some people make fun of my word usage and can tell that I’m not from here. To this day, not many people know about my experiences as a Dreamer because of the stigma of being labeled as a “criminal” or “illegal.” People have a huge misunderstanding of returnees and all feed from mainstream media.

There is much more to say about my experiences back in the U.S. and here in Mexico. I know there are many who I can relate to and who share similar stories. I’m taking this opportunity to let it out because it has been hidden in depths of my heart and soul for too long. Hope to continue with this and be able to share who I am. For now, this is it. Thank you to those who took the time to read my story.

Much love and respect,

Fredi II