I attended a forum today on US immigration policy which included several personal narratives of the effect on families when US authorities seize a family member and deport him or her. US immigration laws are very mechanical -- compassion and appeals to a sense of fairness are not legal arguments to be allowed to remain in the country. It's a situation which many Salvadoran families with relatives working in the US have to face often.
The forum reminded me of the importance to listen to the stories of immigrants and not just focus on numbers and statistics about the flow of persons across borders. In one such story, published this week on the New America Media website, called How is Deporting My Brother a Solution to Gang Violence?, the son of Salvadoran migrants describes the impact of having his gang member brother deported back to El Salvador:
OAKLAND – Today, my step-brother Frank, 23, was deported back to El Salvador. The thing I remember most about him is seeing him laugh. He would laugh about everything, then hide his face to drown his loud mischievous laugh. Frank is about eight years older then me, but I have always been a little bit better at video games. We could play for hours, Frank and my brothers Carlos and Irvin and I.
Frank was deported after being arrested and incarcerated for armed robbery. He had shot someone, but luckily did not kill him. I was in disbelief when it happened, all I could say was: "Frank isn't that stupid." Meaning I knew he was sort of dumb, for joining a gang, carrying a gun, taking pills and drinking, but I never thought he would actually hurt someone.
Many people like to say that their relatives are innocent and that they are good people inside, well, I won't bore you with the same story. Instead, I will tell you that my brother is guilty. He was affiliated with gangs and deserves time away from society, but he was paying for his time by being locked up. His incarceration really seemed to change him for the better. But, in sending him back to El Salvador, I worry that he'll have to resort back to gang life to survive because he won't have any family or support system.
Read the rest of the story here.