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A recent ICE arrest in Amenia: Aftermath of José’s deportation arrest

Part 3 of 3

The day after José was arrested at his Amenia home in the early morning hours, his wife Elizabeth spent two-and-a-half hours with an immigration lawyer in Danbury, using money she and José had set aside for the oil bill. (Vecinos Seguros will cover the oil bill.) She had also tried to visit the Orange County Detention Center where José is being held, but had gotten lost. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s father and sister had taken care of their two preschoolers, Ana and Luis. 

Elizabeth wanted to see José. But, given the current climate, we were both worried that her DACA status might not be adequate protection. Elizabeth was also opening up an outsourced phone account at the detention center that would enable her to talk to José. Since the phone charge is $4.75 per minute, with a $3.75 surcharge for each call time, their conversations would necessarily be brief.

Two days after the arrest, Elizabeth was back at work at the health clinic, sounding understandably low. In addition to all her legal and practical obligations, she needed to sustain herself and her children, and the emotional burden was immense. Since the shock and trauma would not go away quickly, I was glad that she had connected with a woman she had known for a long time whose husband was recently deported. She was planning to contact Congressman Faso’s office to appeal for help, and I offered to accompany her.

A close friend of hers was organizing a “Food Train.” People who want to help out by preparing a meal can go to a website calendar (www.mealtrain.com/wyoo4q) and sign up for a specific date. They can also send money. The friend reported that, “She was floored tonight when I shared all this with her. She said, ‘All this time, I thought no one wanted me in this country, and now to see people pull together for ME?’”

Despite this support, two weeks later, Elizabeth was not surprisingly having trouble sleeping. She had been given medication to help her deal with trauma and the huge challenges she now faced. 

One night, Luis was crying in his sleep. Elizabeth wanted to know why he was upset. Since he does not talk yet, he pointed downstairs towards the kitchen, and then to the glass on the kitchen door, and then to his father’s car outside.

Losing her father has also been very painful for Ana. During a preschool activity, she cried inconsolably for her father. Unfortunately, the preschool would not issue an incident report, which would have been useful to bring before an immigration judge. Without such testimony, it is hard to make a strong case for the emotional damage created by the deportation of a father.

Elizabeth was doing everything possible judicially to prevent her husband’s deportation. Although she and her immigration lawyer had appealed for asylum for José, the court had (wrongly, I believe strongly) determined that he faced no real danger in returning to Mexico. The lawyer then appealed the judge’s decision and they were waiting for that appeal to be accepted or rejected. The longer the wait, the better, since that allows time for developing legal strategies. 

Whenever José called her from prison, Elizabeth broke down. She was still afraid of going to the prison to visit him, anxious that she might be arrested, despite her renewed DACA status. 

One time as we talked, Elizabeth’s eyes focused inward. When I asked her what she was thinking, she said, “I just can’t believe this is happening.”

 

John Carter is an Episcopal priest. He lives in Lakeville with his wife, Deborah. Before retiring, he served for 15 years as Rector of St. John’s Church in Salisbury. He is the director of Vecinos Seguros, which is dedicated to supporting undocumented people and their families and to educating the public about local immigration circumstances. 

Gratitude to Carol Ascher for editorial guidance.