A bunch of us got together last night to talk about immigration and to listen to Claudia Nunez* and her lawyer talk about her case. Some of the guys who were there have already blogged about it and I imagine that the rest of them will get around to it soon enough.
Objectively, the situation sucks. Nunez is from El Salvador originally, a country that has now become overrun by maurading gangs of thugs who prey on the recently deported, because it’s assumed that they have money or connections back in the U.S. to money. She didn’t apply for whatever she needed to apply for when she needed to apply for it and now she’s living here illegally. Her husband is here legally and her two children are U.S. citizens.
She got a traffic ticket for driving without a licence and had to appear in court. For whatever reason, they ran her through some database and her status was discovered. She has no real recourse, it doesn’t sound like.
And that sucks. Not to be flip about it, but she fucked up by not navigating the bureaucracy correctly and she got caught.
I have a lot of sympathy for her, because bureaucracies are hard to navigate and I’m sure it’s hard to keep track of what you’re supposed to fill out and when. As Sarcastro points out, sending her back home is probably a death sentence. That just seems crazy. We’ll send you to your death because you suck at filling out paperwork.
And there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism to insert some measure of mercy into the system.
All that sucks.
But what’s really appalling to me is that her daughters are U.S. citizens. They were born here. They go to school here. They live in this community. They are us.
Don’t U.S. children have a right to their parents?
God, can you see where this just grosses me out? The U.S. government is either going to send these girls’ mother to a living hell (and imagine that, if you will, the government sending your mom away) or the whole family will go together to a country our own government describes thusly:
The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime-threat country. The homicide rate in the country increased 25 percent from 2004 to 2005, and El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Both violent and petty crimes are prevalent throughout El Salvador, and U.S. citizens have been among the victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles. Armed assaults and carjacking take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot. Kidnapping for ransom continues to occur, but have decreased in frequency since 2001. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.
The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime, even in the capital.
Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors to use radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.
U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at automated teller machines. There have been several reports of armed robberies in which victims appear to have been followed from the bank after completing their transactions.
This is a place we want to send very young U.S. citizens to?
This is the part that kept me up last night–trying to imagine what I would do if I were Nunez. Would I go back to a country where I no longer knew anyone and where I would face grave peril by myself? Wouldn’t I want my husband there with me? Isn’t that the point of having a spouse, so that you have someone to do the most difficult things you have to do with you? And if my husband comes with me, do we bring the children with us or leave them here? We might never get back into the country. If you knew you were never going to see your kids again, who would you trust to raise them? Or do you take them with you because, no matter what, you’re a family first?
I just can’t imagine.
It seems to me that those girls have a right to the guardianship of their mother until they are 18 and that there ought to be some way to work the system so that we’re not tearing families apart or sending young U.S. citizens to live in dangerous countries that even their parents are afraid of.
I have to say that until last night, I really thought there was something to this “anchor baby” nonsense. I hadn’t really looked into it, but it just seemed like a way people here illegally might game the system. Have some kids who are U.S. citizens and get to stay here for humanitarian reasons–not because of our great compassion for you, but because of our great compassion for our own countrymen.
So much for that bullshit.
*It would be nice if Squarespace let me put a t~ over the n, but it won’t so you’re just going to have to imagine it there.