Do you remember your childhood? – the bullies in school that always seemed filled with hatred and self-righteously tormented those who were most vulnerable? Well bullies grow up and many of them have not changed, only now they are called Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and Nativists. They are loud. They are obnoxious. They are filled with hate for any and all who are different and they intend to push us aside and get their way. They make certain they are heard by our politicians. Most of our representatives are decent, hard-working people, but they need the input of those of us who do not agree with the hard line anti-immigrant activists who are working to degrade the character of our country. They need your voice. Make yourself heard!
So really, do you think you can't make a difference? Do you remember your childhood? Do you think your voice isn’t needed, can’t help? Do you remember “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr Seuss? Has it been a while? Let me refresh your memory:
Your “Yopp” is desperately needed! Write your Congressmen TODAY!
Sent May 4, 2009 - No reply from the President to date
“My name is Deborah de Santos and I am writing to you to ask for your suggestions on what to do about a situation involving immigration. I recently found myself standing in our local police station as an officer told me sadly that no one person can win against our government. The topic of the moment was a valued member of our small New Hampshire community who was taken from us by INS. He came here from Lithuania because he believed he was needed by his family. Now he is trying to gain the right to live within our town legally. We, his neighbors, would like him to succeed in that. The officer I was speaking with felt the continued incarceration of our friend, who has broken no laws since he came to this country eight and a half years ago, was beyond comprehension.
Others in town have equally low expectations for a happy ending to this story. It grieves them greatly to loose such a good neighbor and they unanimously feel the way INS is handling his case is unjust, but they are also voicing concern for my welfare because I am openly and vigorously helping someone who has been targeted by that government agency. I have reassured them, pointing out that my ancestors are Dunhams and Shermans, founding families of New England. INS can not deport me, but still they fear I shall come to harm. They do not believe it is possible for our friend to receive justice at the hands of our present immigration system and they are not convinced that it is safe to disagree with that branch of the government.
One woman who I do not know well and who does not know the man I am helping stopped me to ask about his welfare, her eyes filled with worry and sadness. Her brother is an immigrant and dealing with the Gordian knot of INS. My soon to be daughter-in-law confesses she has had two cousins deported recently and used much of her savings trying to help them. I had no idea. This is a burden people bear silently. A high-school boy’s girlfriend whose mother is illegal, a husband who must endure abuse at the hands of his wife because he fears being deported and loosing his children . . . as I seek a solution the stories start to trickle in, unbidden, from everyday people. This is a small town region of Northern New England and at every turn INS is rearing its head.
I have witnessed a profound sense of fear and injustice regarding INS in our community. So far, despite many letters in reference to the honorable, even heroic nature of our neighbor, including from police officers and our town administrator, despite our many voices speaking to his dedication as a parent and value to our community, his bid to stay or even be allowed to defend himself has been ignored. He has been held in prison for nearly half a year, making it impossible for him to obtain the information he needs to make his case to remain. He is blatantly and systematically being denied the most basic of human rights. I thought surely our neighbor, a man not even charged with any crime, would at least be free on bail, be allowed to rejoin us and take over defending and paying for his own case. I was naïve.
The fact that my Lithuanian friend still sits in prison with hardened criminals is a travesty of justice and human rights, but the apathy and fear that exists among the people in our town is an indication of something far worse. This town is the very heart of small town America and yet many of our citizens do not believe they have a voice. How, when we have strayed this far from the foundation of freedom upon which this country was built, can we hope to thrive as a nation?
President Obama, Ms Napolitano, you both appear to be people of honor and integrity and I know that you are aware of the immediacy of this situation. I know you have a great deal to handle. Is there anything that I can do that would help you expedite a solution? There are families suffering unfairly in our country right now, large numbers of citizens loosing faith in a free society as I type this. How long does one wait for justice? How many of us who are unfortunate enough to be caught up in INS’ web are expendable? This immigration system is ultimately supposed to be working for us, but they do not seem to notice that. America is a land of immigrants. The majority of our ancestors were immigrants. The few who wish us to turn our backs on immigration now do not speak for us all.
I drive eight hours weekly and walk down prison halls the likes of which people like me normally never see. I sit in front of a grimy glass and speak with our friend through a phone as if I were visiting a dangerous criminal. His two small daughters are forced to do the same. They are not allowed to receive even a hug, a simple, brief reassurance from the father that has been their primary caretaker for most of their lives. This is a cruel thing to do to a child, a foolish thing to do to our future. His children are citizens of this country. They are our future.
The people in our town have been raising money for this man’s defense. Even those who can not afford it have donated something. I make sure he has money in his prison account so he can buy food to eat. He was taken from us the day before Thanksgiving, a strong and robust man. After being held for two months he was shockingly thin and frail. The prison that holds him does not feed him enough, so I find the money and I pay. I struggle to pay the usurious phone bills so that he can at least reach out to someone beyond those hideous prison walls. This system is a financial nightmare for any ordinary person who becomes entangled within it. Are you aware of that? I am a middle class American. If I am floundering and buckling under this weight, what must it be doing to those who do not have the resources that I have?
President Obama, Ms Napolitano, can you explain to me how this is can happen in our country – how we lost our sense of compassion and justice – how our citizens can be stripped financially by a system that is supposed to be of, by and for the people – a system that is supposed to protect us? What has happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free,” that graces our own “Mother of Exiles,” our Statue of Liberty? Has that sentiment become outdated? Does it no longer speak to who we are as a nation? As I see my finances destroyed trying to gain a shred of justice in the immigration system and hear the defeated speech of my neighbors I can hardly believe that I am living in a land that was founded to be the ultimate symbol of liberty. There is no stellar example of freedom in what I am dealing with now. I am one person, but I still believe in this country, still believe one person can make a difference. I am asking you for your help and advice. Can you help? What would you suggest I do?
Thank you for your attention,”
Office of Detention and Removal Operations
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Dear Ms. De Santos:
This letter was sent to Senators Kirsten,
Gilibrand (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
on August 05, 2009.
There has been no response to date.
“With Liberty and Justice for all,” are not just words to an immigrant in this country. They are life.
I am a descendent of Deacon John Dunham of Plymouth Colony and Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. I was raised to treasure the freedoms my ancestors fought and died for and to honor what they created. In my 60 years I have seen many shameful actions and never doubted that justice would triumph – it always has. I am an American citizen who, for the first time, doubts. For the last eight months I have been mentally tortured and financially violated by the actions of a United States government agency that is conducting itself in a way I would have thought was not possible within our borders. The intended targets are my close friend and the other unfortunate immigrants, held indefinitely on civil detention by ICE. I am just collateral damage, an extra victim . . . and witness. I am writing to you in an attempt to find a hero who can save these people and their families from the agony that has become their existence. They are human beings. They are our brothers and sisters.
Could you find it in your heart to learn from some who are held in prison by ICE and hear what is happening to them? If you do you might find it hard to understand the speech of one man awaiting deportation. He must speak with a jaw broken by authorities and left untreated for years. I have his story, along with the story of a man with colon cancer denied his medication and thrown into “the hole” when he demanded it, and a cancer patient awaiting hearings to determine his fate while sitting in prison with one remaining kidney, inadequate drinking water to ease his pain and no medical treatment. The latter came here as a child. He has a citizen family and a business he can no longer run. The country he fled those many years ago? Iran.
These men were all here legally, as was the young college student who came here with his refugee family as a baby. This is his country, his home. He’s been convicted of no crime yet for over a year he has been in prison, detained by ICE. His family is desperate. Their finances have been destroyed trying to help him. His story is an American nightmare. It should never have happened. We don’t do such things to human beings here.
Are you aware of the ICE prisoner who was one of the leaders of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989? He set into motion actions that freed his country from the tyranny of the Soviets. His heroism brought us to the end of the Cold War. He has been lauded in writing by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu for his human rights activities. He has much to offer this country, and yet he has been doing hard prison time for close to three years while fighting efforts by ICE to deport him. His offense? Converting to Islam.
So many stories. I collect them all while fighting back the horror of what is happening in my own country! Of the first six immigrants in danger that came my way, only one was here illegally. Three were victims of domestic slavery, held captive through fear of prison and deportation. One of those still lives with her citizen husband, believing she must endure his abuse or become subject to the whims of ICE. She is a medical doctor and works in DC for our government.
Of those first six, there is not one that any reasonable person would deport, yet one has been deported – a man who came here as a child and knows no other country. He is gone now, deported immediately after we helped his citizen mother find a way to get the papers she needed to prove that he would have been a citizen years ago had INS done their job. She trusted INS and her son paid the price. Copies of her original INS paperwork gave grounds for an appeal. She visited her son in prison and told him the good news. Within two days he was on a plane to Trinidad – no notice, no money, no clothes, nothing. His mother weeps and all I can do is comfort her. I can not explain how this could happen here. I am as shocked as she is.
And then there is my friend’s story, taken the day before Thanksgiving from his family and neighbors. He was here, illegally, for eight and a half years. He gave up everything and came here from Lithuania because he believed his American citizen wife and child were in danger of becoming homeless. To come here legally was going to take years and they needed him. He did what any loving father would do. This man was our friend and neighbor. I promised him when he was taken that I would stand by him. I knew his character as well as his story and had faith in American justice and integrity. He is a good man, still needed by his young children and valued by us all. I was certain he would be out of trouble in no time. I had no idea that eight months later he would still be sitting in prison as I scrambled to find him help while trying to endure the mental torture of our immigration system and the financial burden of helping someone in an American prison. I had no idea it would be so hard to be heard, that American politicians would turn a deaf ear or that I as a citizen mattered so little.
This is not China or Russia. When I discovered what was going on within our immigration system I knew the abuses would be stopped immediately once they were known. Now I find that they have been known right along – and they are being permitted to continue as our government discusses what to do about them. Of course you should discuss it, make changes, fix the system. But while you are doing that, could you please get these men some medical care? Could you maybe get them enough food to eat and clear water to drink? Could you please let the ones who are doing hard prison time for no crime out of prison so they can rejoin their families and their communities while their case is decided? Could you let the ones who remain in prison have a contact visit once in a while so their families and children can at least hug them? Right now these people are treated worse than murderers, rapists and thieves. This is torture for them. This is torture for us all. Can you help?
Senator, why is it that our politicians are not interested in listening to our citizens about these abuses? I have sent letters to President Obama and Janet Napolitano. There has been no response beyond a form letter from DHS that did not address my stated concerns. No one read my letter. People I have told this story to, here and in Europe, are very interested to hear what is happening, but our own government has ignored me. If you care to read that original letter, it can be found on my web site along with the beginning chapters of a book I decided to write, “An American Yankee on ICE.” If our government does not care about justice for our immigrants, perhaps the people do.
This is not something that should be ignored. These abuses by ICE are critical. They speak to who we are as a people. Our character as a country is our destiny. As long as such abuses exist we can not hope to prosper. You know the words: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator . . .” It does not say “all citizens are created equal.” These people have unalienable rights given to them by God. Who are we as a people to deny them those rights?
Thank you for your attention.
Deborah Sherman de Santos
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hear from you. If you have something you feel I should know about,
or if you’d just like to touch bases do it!