Update: As Rep. Luis Gutierrez told Fusion today:
“Democrats think all they need to do is to simply blame Republicans. You know what? We control the White House and we control the deportation apparatus,” he said. “We have a responsibility to act.”
The Obama White House, more than once, has issued guidelines on prosecutorial discretion that are supposed to protect most undocumented immigrants, de-prioritizing mothers and fathers while focusing enforcement on actual criminals and felons. The House GOP swears that it’s getting around to immigration legislation, and a statement of “principles“–which will reportedly even address the 11 million–is in the works. In today’s Republican Party (a wing of which prefers to postpone immigration reform altogether until Obama is no longer president), even that bare minimum is being considered a good sign.
Neither of these facts, however, come nearly close to addressing the human cost of inaction on immigration reform–the reality that, every single day, more than a thousand immigrant families are broken up and separated because a mother, father, or sibling is deported. Some conservatives argue that such a risk is punishment for coming to the US without papers. But some punishments can be grotesquely disproportionate, especially when we’re talking about people who just want to take care of their families and contribute to their adopted country.
For just one recent example–one heartbreaking case out of many–read the Detroit Free Press’ new feature on Marco Gonzalez, a Detroit father who was deported December 30 despite having spent 20 years in the US and being the breadwinner for his wife and five US citizen children:
According to court documents and Michigan United, an immigrant advocacy group, Gonzalez arrived in Florida in 1993 after fleeing captivity from rebel forces who had abducted him while he was working in the fields with his father. They placed a sack over his head, held him captive for months in the mountains and put him in a cave for three days — hands bound to feet — when he tried to escape, records show.
Gonzalez ultimately did escape and fled to the U.S., where he sought asylum. Immigration authorities believed his testimony, records show, but his asylum case languished in the court for years while he built a life for his children and Guatemalan wife, whom he met and married here.
In 2011, an immigration judge denied him asylum, concluding Guatemala had become a more peaceful country and that it was safe for Gonzalez to return.
Asylum request denied, Gonzalez became in danger of deportation, partly thanks to a single bad check written 16 years ago. Just before the new year, he was forced to pack his bags and say goodbye to his family:
The Gonzalez family did not celebrate Christmas this past year. There was no tree, no presents. Two miniature helicopters sit on top of the TV as reminders of their father, who had given the toy choppers to his kids in Christmas 2012.
The children, ages 4 to 14, can’t eat or sleep. They cry often. And they don’t want to go to school, though they do get joy from their puppy Fluffy, a mix that their father rescued from a nearby scrap yard a week before he was deported.
“I just want my dad back,” said 10-year-old Deker, who curled up next to his mother on the couch and cried as he spoke about missing his father.
Deker said that he learned about his father leaving in September.
“He told us, ‘I only have three months with you left.’ And I said, ‘You’re going to leave us?’ ” said Deker, fighting the tears.
Mijany, 14, the oldest, plays music, watches TV and helps her mother cook to make the time go by. Marco Jr., 8, appears confused and cries often, as does 4-year-old Rosiy and the mother, Oralia, a Guatemalan immigrant who speaks very little English and has no idea how she is going to care for her children. The mom is not a U.S. citizen. She also came to the U.S. as a war refugee in 1994 and has had no issues with immigration authorities since coming here.
Milka appears the angriest.
In the weeks before her father’s deportation, her social studies teacher was teaching the class about immigration. She asked all the students to write a paper on their views about immigration.
Milka wants nothing to do with it.
Pounding her fist into her hand, she said, “I don’t care about school. I just want my dad back. Bring me my dad back.”