Sunday, March 11, 2007

Immigration injustice in real time

My friend Monica is 18-years-old.

She has lived in Dallas with her family since she was 5-years-old.

She is an honor student at a Dallas public high school where she is (was) set to graduate in about two months. She has made plans for college after graduation this spring.

She is a great example of the success and accomplishment of one inner city child who grew up in a very poor, but loving family here in inner city Dallas, Texas.

In so many ways she reminds me of my own daughters.

It is very possible that last Friday Monica's life took a drastic turn in a very different direction, a turn from which she may never recover.

Friday was "Senior Skip Day" at her school. Most of the senior class didn't attend classes.

A friend hosted a party for friends at a ranch in Greenville, Texas.

For some reason, the details are still unclear to me, the Greenville Police Department showed up at the party. Every student present who had valid identification was released and was free to go. Those students who had no identification were taken into custody.

Monica and two friends--one a cousin--were transferred to an immigration center here in Dallas. They were booked into the center too late in the day to allow anyone to make bail. As a result, they had to spend the night there.

Then, for some reason we don't understand, on Saturday morning, immigration officials transferred Monica and her friends to the Rolling Plains Regional Jail in Haskell, Texas just north of Abilene, almost 200 miles away from home. There Monica awaits some sort of hearing, though she does not know when it will be.

Got the picture?

A sweet, smart, naive, model high school student being held in a West Texas jail for being "undocumented." Even though she has been here for over a decade, and even though she, nor any other member of her family, has ever had issues with any authority in Dallas, she is now in jail.

The reason?

Current U. S. immigration policy is being driven by the decisions and the discretion of local municipalities. Federal immigration officials do not sweep public schools to pick up undocumented students. Nor do they insist that public schools deny these students entry. Federal immigration officials leave families alone for the most part, unless they encounter criminal behavior.

Sadly, towns like Farmers Branch and Greenville are taking a different approach. Kids like Monica pay the price.

I spent most of the day on the phone on Saturday trying to reach elected officials who might intervene for her. These efforts will continue. So far, I have been unable to accomplish anything real for her.

So, this morning my young friend finds herself in jail 200 miles from her mother and father and family. She is scared. She is alone. I pray she is not in danger.

Immigration provides lots of issues and material for abstract debate these days.

Monica moves the debate onto completely new ground, don't you think?

She is my friend. Her mom and dad are my friends. What she is going through is wrong. This is much more than a debate.

[A bit of research on the facility where Monica is being held didn't help me. The Rolling Hills Regional Jail is managed by a for-profit company, Emerald Companies of Louisiana. The facility opened in 2002 and has a 48-bed regional jail and a 500-bed "detention" center. The Texas Civil Rights Review reports on a number of incidents involving children and families at the facility. Obviously, immigration officials also contract with facility to take detainees. The company is paid on a per-person basis. To learn more go to: http://www.texascivilrightsreview.org/phpnuke/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=865.]

22 comments:

RD said...

this is sickening. I just sent an email to two attorneys who could possibly help. Anyone else care to join me?

Anonymous said...

Larry,

What can we do to help?

Is she allowed visitors?
I hesitiate only in not wanting to complicate things if visitaions are limited.
I'll check back.

cko

john dobbs said...

Can she receive mail? I'd like to send her some encouragements.

What a heartbreaking story.

RC said...

I decided to break my self imposed silence to say that this has to be just about the single most stupid thing a bunch of politicians has ever done, and I fall on the more conservative side of the issue, but this trandsends reason.

Justin said...

True conservatives need to stand up to their xenophobic counterparts in their party and say this kinda crap is wrong. If this girl's family was undocumented, what exactly is she supposed to do about it? Its not her fault that they did something "illegal". Ugh.

bpb said...

How sad . . . I'd like to be surprised, but I'm really not. Not much of anything surprises me anymore. Something like this needs to happen to the people in authority. Not directly to them - that doesn't hurt so much - it's more eye-opening when it happens to your children.

Kevin J. Bowman said...

Anything "the masses" can do to help?

Larry James said...

Thanks to all who posted on this one. I appreciate you.

Stay tuned on this one.

There will be more on Monica tomorrow and more on the entire issue in days to come. There is something we can do and Monica's story may be instrumental in bringing both sanity and humanity to this issue nationally.

owldog said...

I hope & pray all is okay with Monica.

I see this debate going crazy. Across town different story & I hope & pray the media do not make it sound the same. The vandalism (felony because of amount) to Grapevine High school last week. Two (2) of the students that were charged, are here with their families "illegally". The students have already been sent back to Mexico. No trial, no chance for parents to intervene. The “other” students were sent to alternatives schools; they can graduate but not walk the stage.

The point is, it sounds like "they" have made this blanket decision on what to do with ALL of the students who are here "illegally" who get into "ANY" kind of trouble.

Monica's case is a good example of "NO WAY IS THE RIGHT WAY ALL THE TIME"

I hope we get good news on Monica tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Atrocities at Rolling Plains and Hutto Detention centers concerning children should not be hidden. Thank you for bringing this to Christian light. I googled Rolling Plains to find out more...
unbelievable that we could keep children imprisoned at such facilities. It is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. The Red Cross/Churches should be ministring to those located at these facilities. NIMB? yes...

Jay said...

My name is Jay. I encourage y'all to be careful. Y'all are seeing what Chertoff and ICE really are.

Just last week I did a protest walk against Hutto. The situation in the governor's hometown is volitile.

If Monica is visited...she will be subject to being stripped naked in front of male guards...and against her will she will have a full body cavity check raped on her in front of those male guards.

What we need to do is unite to free the innocent victims. The prison company is purely for-profit. They get some $7000 for each month that someone is imprisoned there. They will not want Monica to leave.

If we unite our voices of outrage...we can put a stop to this. Short of that...Monica and a few hundred othere innocent people will be locked up for as long as Chertoff and the Emerald company figure they have gotten all the money out of her detention that they can.

We the people must go on the offensive...using our hearts and our minds. Reason. Transparency.

Spead your outrage. Use the web as much as you can. Little else works.

We will win intellecually, morally and spiritually. Very soon...

Jay said...

P.S. Sorry. Last week I did a walk agains Haskell. The Hutto walk was in December.

Anonymous said...

There is no Strip searching and "body cavity searches" performed on female detainees by male officers at Rolling Plains. They have a strict policy on this matter. Matter of fact the only strip search perfomred by this facility is done at the discreation of the visitation officer and during intake, or booking....by an officer of the same sex I might add.
Granted the conditions of the Hutto facility truly are horrible and inhumane. Myself, I think that hutto should be closed down and teh owners be investigated. Humes should not be treated in such a way.By comparison, Rolling plains is an Adults only facility...meaning there is no one there under 18 years of age. The conditions at Rolling Plains are far better than another family recently in the news is letting on. Medication is passed out 3 times a day, personal needs such as toilet paper, feminie napkins, soap, etc. are always availible upon request, meals are cooked and passed out three times a day and there is rec time twice a day for everyone, and there is a working phone in each cell. Granted it is a detention center and jail conditions are very good all thing considered. I.C.E. is to blame in alot of these cases, not the centers that house the people that are sent to these places. I.C.E. is the ones to complain to!

Anonymous said...

Is this site still operative? If so, someone pleqse hit reply! I can't get any usefl info by googling Rolling Plains, and have personal recent experience with some probs. there. Where do I go to find out the NAMES of some of the people in authority out there? I am in Dallas.
Thanx,Another Anon.

LOPEZ Y CARRANZE said...

HELLO.I AM WRITING BECAUSE I HAVE THE SAME "SORT" OF SITUATION. A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE, HIS BROTHER AND HIS WIFE, WERE DETAINED BY IMMIGRATION, WAITING FOR THEM OUTSIDE THEIR HOUSE, AS THEY WERE ON THEIR WAY TO WORK. THE WIFE AND HUSBAND HAVE 2 SMALL CHILDREN AT HOME. HOWEVER, THAT IS NOT THE ISSUE.... THEY ARE FORGOTTEN..(HOW CRUEL)... BUT I CAN SAY SINCE IM GOING TO VISIT FROM FAR AWAY THEY ARE GIVING ME DOUBLE TIME WITH MY FRIEND.. I THINK OUR COUNTRY SHOULD BE MORE OPEN TO FOREIGNERS AND IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS ARE BLIND AND COLD............ PLEASE BELIEVE ME IN THE NAME OF MONICA AND MY FRIEND, I THINK ROLLING PLAINS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A PLACE FOR UNEDUCATED RASCIST PEOPLE TO FIND  FAULT IN OUR FOREIGN FREINDS AND FAMILY

Anonymous said...

Larry,

I'm so sorry to hear about Monica. How can we help? I'm helping a friend too who is in a similar situation. He just turned 30, he's a sweet, funny, hardworking guy who makes friends everywhere he goes. How he has been treated makes me feel terribly sad, but driven to do something to change things. I'll write bullets to avoid a long email.

- 2003 he files for permanent residence
-2006 gets interview with immigration & is told a notice will come in the mail
-2007 notice does not come
- call the 800 # and is rudely told to "just wait"
- Called the 800# again and is told to look online
- in Dec 2007 the online "update" is "Your interview is set for Sept 2006" (in the PAST)
- call again to make an appt.
-there is ONE office for the state and has NO appointments
- Call and pay an attorney
- the attorney goes to immigration office and is also told to wait
- Feb 11, 2008 call again and told "there is no information"
- Feb 11, 2008 immigration mails a letter indicating the call was made and that there's no information.
- April 10 finally get an appointment via online system to check case status.
- April 10 told case has been denied because he didn't show up for his appointment on Feb 28, 2008

He can appeal within 30 days for a fee of over $500. He broke down in tears when he read that. He spent a year trying to find someone that could give him an update on his case. His mother died last year and he couldn't go see her only to be told his case was denied for not showing up. It is more than incompetence, it is injustice. Injustice like that hurts. What's going on in this country?

Anonymous said...

Send Monica back to Mexico now! These illegal aliens breaking US laws get what they asked for...

Anonymous said...

I agree, I spent ALLOT of time, and money to get my fiancee here. Would have been easier if she was Mexican.
Try obeying the damn law for once and just maybe you wont go to jail. Send her back to Mexico,

idalia said...

dayummm thats sad

Anonymous said...

I payed money to get here and she thinks she can come for free??
It is sad though...Im very sorry

Anonymous said...

i want to say im sorry im husband just got sent to rolling plains and we are also from dallas he is from mexico and i am from dallas he was brought her as a young child about 3. or 4 it was not his choice y should he b punished ??

Larry James said...

a