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How our Backwards Immigration System Tore our Family Apart

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My family and I are still living with the results of the broken immigration system and its events from 2006. My uncle was detained and deported as a product of the meatpacking plant raid that took place in Marshalltown, IA. This was a very difficult time for our family, as we have always been close. My uncle’s absence left a strong impact on my cousin, who was then 2, who stopped talking and needed to regularly attend therapy.

Within a year of my uncle’s departure, immigration proceedings continued with my aunt. She was also eventually deported — regardless of having had two citizen children, and having lived and worked in this country for over 15 years.

I found this old letter, from when my aunt was in a detention center prior to her removal proceedings. I think this is very illustrative of the situation at that moment:

My very dear sister, the purpose of this letter is to greet you, with hopes that you are well, as those are my best wishes. I am well, thank God. The days pass by and I feel calmer, here we pray with the rosary every day. And I always pray a lot and I know that God is giving me lots of strength to go through this situation, which isn’t by any means easy. In the beginning I would cry a lot. The thought of going to Mexico terrorized me, but now God has cleared things up in my mind. And the most important thing is to be with my children.  If God wants me to go then that is how it will be. God never abandons us and I know things will get better. I know that in the beginning it’s going to be difficult but not impossible, I’m going to fight so that my children are well. They will become accustomed to the lifestyle [in Mexico]. I only ask of God that they don’t suffer and that they don’t miss this life too much.

I don’t want you guys to worry — you did all that you could. And this is how God wanted things to happen. Here I send you these addresses of some women that I met and I told them I’d write them. I send you these so that you can keep them for me, in case I were to lose my little notebook, that I have here. Well, please take care, later on with calm we can come upon an agreement on how you can send me my children. I miss them so much. I know that you’re going to visit Alex. I wish that everything does well with her, that her baby is born well. Send her my greetings and pass on my wishes that everything goes well. Take lots of care and God bless and God willing we see each other soon.

Your sister that loves you very much.
Elizabeth

My cousins were ages 2 and 4 at the beginning of these events, and were 4 and 6 by the time their mother was deported. They moved in with my family, where we cared for them, until finally deciding that they needed to be with their parents. They were reunited with their parents in Mexico in 2010.

My cousin is now 9, and notices the geographical, educational, and social differences. He feels alienated as he had never even visited the country. He dislikes his school and his environment. He regularly asks me why he has to be there, and if he could come back. I visited them over my winter break, and when I was talking to my cousin about the differences he noted. He said “Here, there are not a lot of toys, it’s poor here and there it’s rich, even if you’re poor. There’s no jobs, we don’t have a car, and everything is far… just that.” When I asked him if he would like to return one day he said, “I want my mom to go over there…but she can’t…”

Today, February 6th, is his birthday. His second birthday in Mexico and he is now 10. As citizens of the United States, it is truly a shame that both of these children are being denied their rights and benefits to have brighter future as a result of our outdated and broken immigration laws.

This post originally appeared on the Reform Immigration FOR America blog.

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