Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dead Leaves on a Dirty Ground

It is happening again.

"Lupita was stopped in traffic.  They have her at the jail.  They said she has to speak to immigration tomorrow."

They have already deported her son, Cristian.  That happened around the holidays two years ago.  She has never met her first grandson, born in Mexico because her son's girlfriend was not going to have the baby without him and returned before the birth.

"We need to call the lawyer.  Waiting does NOT help.  We have to find out where she is being held.  Is it an ICE county?  Should we gather the troops?  Get all the petitions going pleading her case?  It almost worked with Cristian.  We have to find out if they plan to move her to an immigration facility.  If she should ask for voluntary or involuntary deportation..."

All of the wheels started moving, almost involuntarily.  Weird knowledge and contacts that have been lying below the surface...dormant, waiting for it to happen again so they could prove they weren't just eating a hole in my stomach, they were willing to dig their way out.  I thought about sitting across from Cristian's lawyer two years ago, when he said it was too late.  Or three years before that standing less than a mile off the border, watching the helicopter carry a dehydrated man into the sky while Border Patrol kicked his friend's legs apart on the ground, hoping that Cristian had made it back across again.  The buses.  The nondescript buses that carried long lines of men to the no man's land between the U.S. and Mexico border in Tijuana.  The men at Casa, trying to be nice to me but suddenly ranting at me in English about all the PINCHE MOTHER FUCKING PROBLEMS WITH YOUR STUPID MIGRA HUNTING DOWN FAMILY PEOPLE INSTEAD OF CRIMINALS.  I HAVE BEEN THERE TWENTY YEARS.  MY WIFE AND KIDS ARE THERE.  MY ASS IS GOING BACK ACROSS TOMORROW.  Sitting on the other side of glass speaking to Alejandro on a telephone while children cried and rubbed on the glass that separated them from their fathers.  The sound the shackles made when all of the men in the Streamline trial stood up after entering pleas in group responses of 'sí' or 'no' or 'face a fucking felony'.  Sitting in a parking lot in the middle of the night hiding from Border Patrol while 4th of July fireworks covered the sky, waiting for the coyotes to meet my passenger.  Or passengers. 

"If they keep her, we have to get money to her commissary account.  It's cold in those detention centers, she will need money to buy overpriced clothes from the commissary to keep her warm.  And buy phone cards....she has to be able to communicate with her family...."

Her family.  An elementary aged son that is an American citizen.  A nineteen year old daughter that was so proud to receive papers through Deferred Action and immediately began enrolling in college.  Another daughter in her early twenties that still doesn't have papers, but comes with Lupita to clean houses, helping from her wheel chair, legs forever inoperable. 

"No matter what happens, if she gets released tomorrow, if they hold her three days, if they....if they deport her, we have to do the things we can do to make this more comfortable for her...."

Then I thought of the deportation bag.  I saw it when Alejandro was locked up in the detention center three years ago.  They never really tell you when someone will be deported.  Even if you're family.  They won't even tell you where they will be deported to.  Tijuana?  Reynosa? Laredo?  They can be dropped off anywhere, hundreds of miles from wherever they know anyone in Mexico, without money, and often at night, to fend for themselves and get back to a place where they know someone.  Some of them know no one, having been brought as children to the United States.  They are completely reliant on family members still in the U.S. to make random phone calls to Mexico City, Oaxaca, any part of the Republic...hey, my kid, you met him when he was three...well, he's is twenty-two now and stuck at the border....can you help?  He's big now but man, he's a child in Mexico.... I remember the buses pulling up in the middle of the night at Alejandro's deportation center...the bad buses, the ones that take them away.  It was as if they knew what they were doing was so disgusting that the sun should not see it. 

"I remember those flat trees in the desert...." Irena told me one day after school, in private.
"I still have the scars on my back from where they tried to take me under a barbed wire fence..."
We were sitting in a well respected American high school.  She was my student.
"I go back and forth..." another told me, "but my mom can't.  She doesn't have papers."
"I don't see the point of any of this crap." a third told me.
"Everyone tells me that I need to go to college, but I know I can't because I don't have papers.  What the fuck is the point of graduating from high school?  You know us Mexicans, can't even play 'Uno' because we only want the green card."

And about that bag.  It is a horrible thing.  When families finally realize that there is nothing that will stop the deportation, they bring a bag to the center and leave it there for whenever the inevitable happens so that their loved one will not be dropped, empty handed, in an unknown area in the middle of the night.  You see people sitting in cars in the parking lot, afraid to come inside because they don't have papers, but still willing to take the ride and sit outside for hours.  The officers search the bag when you bring it to the center.  No money allowed, not even Mexican pesos.  No phone cards, U.S. based or Mexican cards, or a fucking Timbuktu card if you felt like dropping that in there.  No letters, phone numbers, addresses.  No belts.  No Mexican ID cards.  Pants and t-shirts, that 's it.  No recuerdos, things to remember any one by or things that might help or comfort you.  No fucking anything. 

That's when I knew I was about to cry.  I hate that fucking bag.  If she is deported, her young American son could easily be placed in foster care.  He could visit her in Mexico when he's older, on his American passport with a Mexican visa stamped in it.  Her daughters would have to make a choice between returning permanently to Mexico or never seeing their mother again.  

"Angel, tengo que hablar con Angel....."  I remember my friend whispering into the phone in the middle of the night while Migra trucks whizzed by and fireworks lit up the sky. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Schools Out for Winter

"I’m incredibly frustrated by this school closing. It’s cold. But it’s dry and it’s not THAT cold."

I don't know, six degrees?  I think that's pretty cold.

"Negative 30 degrees? Sure, close school. But today… it’s just kinda cold. That’s it. The kids will be inside the school, warm. It’s not a safety issue. And because of this I can’t go to work. Please do not close schools tomorrow."

Okay, put your six year old outside in the dark in this weather to catch the bus.  It's not THAT cold. Or stand your ass out there for ten-fifteen minutes waiting for public transport to take you to school in a thin jacket because your parents can't buy you a real winter coat because of an anomaly in southern weather. Really, it's not THAT cold!

"Absolutely the most ridiculous thing ever."

Yeah, and this happens SO often in Atlanta. We totally have to deal with this like, every ten years.

"But what about all the kids who are home with parents (or home alone) who need to be working to pay their bills?"

That one was actually directed personally to me.  All I have to say is that if taking one or two days off from work will make you unable to support your children, it might be time to um, make a household budget or something. 


No, you are pathetic.  So fucking sorry, but you assholes are just going to have to spend a whole day with your own kids.  No one was worried about a day of education being lost.  They were worried because their tax paid babysitting center was closed for the day.  It's pathetic that they think that's the role schools play. 

The neighborhood I live in and the district I teach in are not the norm for metro Atlanta.  They are both, well, rich.  The average commute to school is running from warm McMansion to warm Volvo to warm school.  Most are two parent households, often with both parents working or one parent OPTING to stay at home.  They don't have to worry about the things most metro parents have to worry about on a daily basis and they were the ones complaining about school closings.   They just don't want to spend another day with their kids.

"They made a decision. School is closed. That is that. Go play with your kids. Bake cookies. Set up a tent in the living room and pretend to camp. Have some fun. Being grouchy isn’t going to change any thing."

WORD, motherfucker.  Try to actually enjoy the creatures you put on this earth.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Lola accepted the pig ear like she was taking communion.  She advanced slowly, eyes raised toward the giver and gently took the ear into her mouth.  And then, she ran away with it.  Alec and I laughed.  We know she really likes something if she runs off with it, as if we would buy her an expensive treat, give it to her, and then try to take it back for ourselves. 

I ripped the lights off of the tree, threw them on a chair and dragged the tree through the front door, along the side of the house and into my trunk.  It was sticking about five feet out, but I just crammed the truck door on top of it and drove down the street, watching the door open and close on top of the tree.  The fucking Boy Scouts would be done with the chipper in seven minutes.  I could make it.  If I didn't, I would be stuck with this thing that the trash men refuse to pick up.

The tree stayed in the trunk all the way to the first turn around the south end of the park.  I was thrilled.  I saw a man at the bottom of the hill in jogging clothes.  He was on the ground, holding his leg and grimacing.  Some weird stretch?  I almost kept driving.  I don't stop for men in need no matter what the situation is.  Especially not white men.  They just have to find someone else, because I like my lady parts unmolested and value my life.

I slowed the car.
"Are you okay?"  I called hesitantly.
"I just twisted it, really bad..." he responded, short breathed.
" you....need a ride... to your nearby house....?" I asked with an obvious look of trepedation on my face.
"Really?  Can you do that?  Hey, you're my neighbor!" he said grimacing and stating my address.  I realized that he understood why women are fearful of closed spaces with unknown men. 
"Can you walk over here?"
He limped slowly across the street, dragging a leg behind him.  I felt like an ass for not parking the car and helping him. 

Lola clandestinely walked toward the front of the house.  I followed her and was surprised when I saw the pig ear hidden behind the chair cushion.  She has done this before, but I didn't realize she loved this particular ear that much.  She extracted it, and walked around the house with the entire thing 'hidden' in her mouth.  Her lip was sticking up were a tiny bit of the ear protruded from her large jaws.  We sat on the couch.  I helped her hide it again behind a couch cushion, pulling the cushion away so that she could insert it and secretively shoving the blanket forward that she was trying to advance with her nose to cover the buried treasure.  She repeated the burial all afternoon, in four parts of the couch, under my pillow on the bed, back in the chair, in plain view by the fireplace, shoved between the bed and the wall.

He made it into the car.
"Sorry, but do you mind if I get this thing out of my trunk?  It's on the way and the Scouts are done in five minutes".
"Yeah... " he said, flinching with pain.

"Okay, five seconds!"  I said brightly, wheeling through the Boy Scout stand and on around the park.