5 Stories, 5 People Trapped in a Broken Immigration System
Quendy Alejandra Garcia’s Story
“I was arrested in the Postville, Iowa raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant [in 2008]. I was at work around 10 a.m., doing work that is very hard, lifting very heavy things and working long hours, and all of a sudden, people started yelling that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had arrived. We all started running and crying. “[Immigration authorities] loaded us on a bus and from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. we sat and waited. We saw our male co-workers taken away and some of us women had ankle bracelets put on so we could go back to our children. After they let us go, I went to the church. My two daughters were there.
“We stayed at the church for the night, and then four more days after that. My seven-year-old asked me, ‘What is happening to you and why do you have that [ankle bracelet] on your foot?’ I explained to her what happened and that we would have to go to Mexico. She told me she does not want to go because she was born here, this is her home and she wants to learn more English. “It is very hard for me, too. After nine years here, I don’t want to go to back to Mexico. I came here to give my children a better future and I am hopeful that the last word will be good from the judge. Our only crime was to come here and work. Now that I can no longer work, I can no longer provide for my children, but I keep trusting in God that all of this will come to an end for the welfare of my children.”
Pastor Mario’s Story
Pastor Mario’s wife migrated to Chicago from the Philippines in 1977, and she petitioned for Pastor Mario to join her a year later. Because of the heavy influx of Vietnamese refugees at that time, his immigration was delayed for two years. When he finally arrived in 1980, he quickly found a job and started adjusting to American life. In 1985, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen and immediately filed a petition for his brother and sister who were still in the Philippines. Four years after filing the petition and with no answers, his siblings’ absence weighed heavily on his mind. He wrote to his senator asking for help expediting his families’ reunification. Pastor Mario received a reply saying that he would have to follow immigration guidelines with regard to the visa availability for his petition category.
Unfortunately, the dream of uniting his family here in the United States died with his brother in 1994, whom he would never see again. Finally, after 23 years of waiting, Pastor Mario received the documents required to process the petition for his sister.
Adam Savitt’s Story
Adam Savitt, an immigrant from Guatemala, was sitting on the front porch of his home in Highland Park, IL on a Monday morning, when eight federal immigration agents showed up. Within minutes, they had taken him into custody and handed his belt, keys and wallet to his wife of seven years, Julie Savitt. They did not show her a warrant and did not tell anyone why he was being detained. Adam was taken to an immigration detention facility. It took his wife four days to find where he was. Though Julie gave the immigration agents his diabetes and depression medication, Adam did not receive his diabetes medication for several days in the detention center, until immigrant rights organizations, lawyers and his rabbi intervened. Eventually, Adam was deported to Guatemala.
At the time, the Savitts were going through the legal channels for Adam to become a legal permanent resident of U.S.
Adam has helped raise Julie’s three children and is supporting his two other children. Today, however, our laws do not take into account that Adam Savitt is married to a U.S. citizen, a successful businessman, a resident of Highland Park, that he fled Guatemala during its bloody civil war, and an applicant for the marriage visa that would allow him to live with his family in the United States.
Muhamed Kamal’s Story
In November 2003 Muayeda Halboos Kamal showed her 15-year-old son,
Muhamed, around a small apartment in Jordan, instructing him how to boil tea and cook their favorite Iraqi dishes. After assuring him that it would only be a few weeks before they were reunited, Muayeda boarded a plane for America and left Muhamed behind. Muhamed’s separation from his family lasted four years.
In 2001, Muhamed’s father had visited Washington, D.C. on a tourist visa to escape the danger imposed on his Shia family by Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime. He received asylum and was allowed to bring his wife and children to the United States in 2001, but everything changed on Sept. 11, 2001. In 2003 Muayedah and her youngest son Muayed were approved for travel to the United States by the American consulate in Jordan. But Muhamed was denied because he would need to clear additional background checks by the Department of Homeland Security. After weeks of waiting Muayeda and her youngest son left for the U.S. so as not to lose their visas.Separations like this became common when a moratorium was imposed on Iraqi males over 14 after Sept. 11. Muhamed’s visa had been approved in 2003, but Muhamed remained in Jordan for four years because of a paperwork dispute between the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Muhamed had simply fallen through the cracks.
Rigo Padilla’s Story
Rigo Padilla, 21 years old, has lived in the United Stated since he was 6 years old and lived in Chicago for most of his life. Rigo had attended the University of Illinois-Chicago for one semester, until the burden of paying for a public university became too much. Rigo, an excellent student and the leader of the Organization of Latin American Students at Harold Washington College and active member of his community, was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being pulled over for a traffic violation by the Chicago Police. Currently, there is no path to legalization for people brought here as minors. Activists and allies organized a campaign to stop his deportation and were able to secure a one year reprieve. Rigo is like many other immigrant youth who are punished for the alleged transgressions of their parents. Even before Padilla became a target of ICE, he was facing the same struggle that an estimated 60,000 undocumented students face each year when graduating from high school–how to pay for higher education. If comprehensive immigration reform is not passed in 2010, Rigo will have to return to Mexico, a place he does not know.