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Archive for the ‘Immigration Policy and Families’ Category

IxcanulSaturday February 27,  I saw one of the most beautiful and poignant movies ever, Ixcanul, from Jayro Bustamante. It was not be mentioned in the ceremony of the Oscars on Sunday, but it received a well-deserved best first film award at Cinema Tropical award.

But I want to talk about immigration and the tragedies that often go with it, not cinema. The movie tells the story of Maria, a young girl who lives with her family in the vicinity of the volcano Pacaya, in the south of Guatemala. They are landless peasant workers working in a coffee plantation. Maria’s future is all set: She is to marry the overseer of the plantation and this alliance allows her family to keep their house and to remain on the land where they live. However Maria happened to be enamoured with a young fellow who wants to go to the US, and does not know much it besides it lies behind Ixcanul (which means volcano in one of the Mayan languages of Guatemala, Kaqchikel). Maria sleeps with him to get him to bring her with him on his trip, but the lad leaves the country without her. She becomes pregnant. The condition for her family not to be kicked out is to start sowing corn their land infested with snakes. One of them bites her, and she is rushed to Guatemala City hospital. There, doctors spare her life, but not her baby’s, who is dead, Maria is told by a Kaqchikel-Spanish  hospital translator. In fact, the paternalistic greedy administration of the hospital, with the help of Maria’s cuckold fiancé, have given her baby for adoption; That’s good money, and indigenous babies are better off given for adoption to white rich folks anyway than taken care off by their illiterate kins.

Now, let us imagine for one second a totally different story for Maria. Instead of being stuck in Guatemala, she makes it to the promised land, which a real estate mogul, who epitomizes bad taste in each of his numerous architectural endeavors, wants to protect from immigrants with a wall. Let us be generous with Maria. She finds a half-decent coyote, crosses Mexico and makes it safe to the US. Then, she starts working for a chicken factory at less than the minimum wage, with unbearable working conditions. Maria is lucky tough.  The “Migra” never raids the factory where she works. Hence, unlike her compatriot Encarnación Bail Romero for instance, she does not go to jail, and does not have her kid given for adoption by a rogue judge to well-to do American parents. Instead, she keeps on working, contributes to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and never gets a cent from any of these programs. Maria’s daughter may or may not graduate from High School; she will however go to College if State policy allows it, and remains in any case, a second -class citizen. As far as Maria is concerned, she, as an illegal immigrant, will never see her parents again. Even if she were to go  back to Guatemala to be near a dying parent, she would indeed bound to start at square one, crossing borders illegally at her risk and perils.

The point is that there is no need of a wall to make the situation of immigrants more miserable than it already is.  Distrust those who want to make America great again, and those who say that America has always been great. Both messages are old bull, and their messengers always have it wrong about immigrants: Immigrants are always loosing big. Their offspring and politicians make a point to embellish it.

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Blue Star 1, July 1 2015

Blue Star 1, July 1 2015

On July 1, 2015, my girlfriend and I took the boat from Mytilene (Lesbos, Greece) to Athens. That day, most travelers on the Blue Star 1 were not the usual tourists doing the twelve-hour journey at this time of the year. They were Syrians (perhaps also Afghans and Somalis), mostly men, going to Athens on a transit visa. From there they would try to reach Northern European countries.

The day before, we had seen long caravans of men, veiled women and children walking along the roads of Lesbos. Small boats coming from the shore of Turkey had dropped them off in the north of Lesbos, in small villages like Eftalou, where chances to get caught by the Greek navy are remote. The price the smugglers charge for this short trip, we later learnt, is about $1,000. The migrants were all heading to Mytilene, Lesbos capital, where a refugees camp with a capacity of 400 people is totally overwhelmed.

In my experience, the poor and the destitute often tend to be the nicest people (after them come the Greeks). First, we started a conversation with two women and an adorable 7-year old little girl who could not fully bend one of her arms, which had been crushed under stones when her house was shelled. Later, we met two thirty-year-old Syrian men, whom we will call X and Y. The deck was crowded, and they insisted on finding us chairs and offering us some of the almonds that made their dinner for the day. X and Y are well-educated civil engineers, who had finished their degree and were working in the suburb of Damascus, until it became impossible to go on: They had to do a five-year military service and fight all the foes of the Assad regime. They also have no sympathy whatsoever for Daesh and its version of Islam. Y has two little girls, who are still in Damascus, and whose pictures he keeps on his cell phone. X’s wife is pregnant. For the two men, staying in Syria was not an option, and they have the support of their family in their journey.

The next morning we did not see X and Y among the crowd landing in Athens. We hope they made it to Germany or Denmark, where they want to work and settle.

The sad thing in all this is that Europe quietly let Greece cope with these fluxes of migrants coming from Asia and Africa, adding to the aggravation of EU austerity policy inflicted upon the country. In the Financial Times, George Soros called for an integrated migration and refugees policy in the European Union. So far, he is unfortunately screaming in the desert.

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I was listening yesterday to Senator Marco Rubio on “Face the Nation” pondering if the 21 th century would be another American century. Let’s take a shot at the answer. Whether it is or not, it will not look good for the poor. As everybody knows, we all live in a classless society. That’s tough luck for those who do not make it to the middle class, because that’s all there is. It has to be because they don’t belong there, and they just have themselves to blame to it. It has not always been the dominant way of thinking; in the 1960’s, President Johnson launched a war on poverty, the underpinnings of which was that being poor was just not a question of failing to seize opportunities that were out there. Those days, one is under the impression that a new war has been waged: the war against the poor.

Let’s be fair though. There are still good folks who want to help the poor; the banks, at least. The poor have a lot of bad habits and misgivings, we all know that: they have children out of wedlock, they don’t read the fine print of a mortgage (banks did not mind much until 2008), and on top of everything, they dare to gamble, which baffles economists. With the opportunities they have, how can they? Poor chaps can’t figure out that the way out of poverty is to save. According to Patricia Cohen from the New York Times, banks have found the way to get the poor to save, willy-nilly: banks- credit unions to be exact- have created prize-linked savings accounts. You save and can earn the jackpot, from time to time.

That’s more or less all poor- lovers there is. In the last decades, the tolerance for the poor has been running thin, thanks to do-gooders from the left and the right who blabber about personal responsibility to scrub social programs from public expenditures. Take the issue of universal Pre-K in New York, which is critical for the poor, as it helps level the playing field between their kids and the rest of the kids in terms of access to education. That universal pre-K be founded without tax increases, but by the growth of the New York State casino economy, as Governor Cuomo wants it to be, means that the gambling suckers – the poor- will pay for the education of their kids. God forbid, the middle class – and forget the rich- won’t have to chip in.

Moving South, one reaches a new frontier in the detestation of the poor. The great State of Alabama for instance has implemented experiments  aiming at being ‘more efficient’ at collecting what the poor owe, like tickets for driving without insurance. The problem, as Sarah Stillman in the June 23 New Yorker article tells, is that these collection agencies are private for-profit firms, whose charge the hell they want in supervision fees without oversight from the courts. The outcome is folks ending up in jail with more debt, which defeats both justice and the goal of trimming public expenses.

There is something I have been chewing since I started coping with US family justice. 1. Justice is perhaps the most important of the functions of a state. 2. You need to respect the folks you are providing justice to, or forget about it.

 

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Sweet (Idaho)

Things are so bad with family justice that one has to underscore when the worst is avoided. In Jesus Ramirez’case and his three-year old daughter, Maria, one was heading towards a fiasco à la Bail Romero in Missouri: an immigrant parent being deprived for ever of his parental rights.

Close call. Without the Idaho Supreme Court overturning the ruling of the Idaho Department of Human and Health Services, Jesus Ramirez would never have seen his daughter. Ramirez is a Mexican undocumented worker, who married an American citizen in Idaho in 2007.  A year after, he is expelled and returned to Mexico, soon joined by his wife.  Maria is conceived in Mexico but born in Idaho, where Ramirez’ wife returns in 2008. As she is accused of child’s neglect, Maria is put in a foster home. Ramirez, who has tried to come back to the country to reunite with Maria, is accused of having abandoned her, not to have the financial needs to support her, and is given the thorny “best interest of the child stuff”: Maria will live in the beautiful country of ours.

In Ramirez’ case, the Idaho Supreme Court has asserted that undocumented parents also have parental rights. That may help parental rights in general.

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Encarnación Bail Romero

Presumably most of the readers of this blog have had a taste of family court justice ‘s solidarity towards their own, and they know it is rarely about justice.  Say, you file a downward petition of child support which is denied; then you appeal and your appeal is also denied, because the appellate judge won’t overturn a decision of a fellow colleague. You may not be able to pay your rent but you are an unknown entity for these folks, while they cross pass every day and want to be able to take the elevator together if they have to without being uncomfortable.

Sometimes that’s sadly all there is to it in a ruling, or perhaps I am just rambling trying to find out a rationale to the termination of Encarnación Bail Romero’s parental rights. Bail Romero, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, lost custody of her son Carlos after the INS raided the poultry plant where she was working.  While she was incarcerated, Bail Romero thought her son Carlos was taken care off by family members, who in fact had their hands full with their own children and asked for the help of the Moser family. The Mosers came to like the kid and file for adoption, knowing Bail Romero’s predicament.

Don’t bother asking why in Missouri one can adopt a child whose parents 1/are known and in jail 2/ have not stated their willingness to give up her children for adoption. Judge Dally – Jasper county, Missouri circuit court- doesn’t mind and delivers the kid to the Mosers. Encarnacíon Bail Romero then regained her parental rights once in Missouri Supreme Court and lost them again, along with Carlos, a week ago. Green county Judge David Jones ruled that Bail Romero abandoned Carlos while in jail, clearing the way for the Mosers to file for Carlos’ adoption a second time. Evidently, judges in Missouri have a peculiar conception of parental rights, and one wonders how the Mosers can even think of adopting a child that they have to tear off from his mother. That’s the sad outcome of à la Dally and Jones justice: illegal immigrants’ children are up for grab in Missouri.

A justice system that allows Encarnación Bail Romero to be deprived of her parental rights does not need rogue judges like Dally and Jones in business. All that is needed is for the INS, after a raid into a plant operating with undocumented immigrants, to inform prospective candidates for adoption about the list of available children.

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Montes Famliy (LA Times)

Mexico has a kidnapping problem. I am not talking about the “internal” Mexican kidnapping problem, which the Calderón administration has failed to keep at bay on all account. Making a scapegoat of Florence Cassez has just been a way to hide its failure from the Mexican public.  I am talking here of Mexico’s “external” kidnapping problem, the kidnapping of Mexican children by the US family court system: children whose parents are undocumented workers sent back to their country, and are given for adoption to US families on the grounds it is in their best interest.

First Alfonso Mejia and Margarita Almaraz, Encarnacíon Bail Romero and  Cirila Balthazar Cruz. Enters Felipe Montes.  Felipe Montes comes to the US illegally in 2003, starts working in North Carolina and gets married to Marie with whom he has three children. Unfortunately he gets deported and his wife is declared unfit to raise the children. They are placed with foster parents, who wish to adopt the children.  From that point on, Felipe Montes has to play Sparta family court (Allegheny County, North Carolina)’s lose-lose game, that is demonstrating he is worth the children. Although he has no criminal record and has taken care of the children, social workers did wonder if sending the children to Mexico was in their best interest. Felipe is living in a rural area around Tamaulipas in a house with no running water. These brillant social engineers are asking themselves if poverty should prevent parenting.

Sparta family court is supposed to render a sentence tomorrow.  Too late to suggest to social workers there how they would feel if, after venturing in a foreign country, marrying somebody there, being kicked out of there without their children, they would be denied parenting on the ground that, let say, children are better off  there because, you know, the North Carolina hamburger-based diet is not the healthiest for children, and children are better off be shielded from North Carolina gun violence.

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Mejia family (Photo Associated Press)Many New Yorkers, myself included, are critical about the MTA’s (Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city’s train system) performance.  I don’t have a Twitter account, but I know about the twitter feed Fake MTA, which helps me endure the bumps of my daily commute. One Fake MTA twit stated something like ” in order to speed up service, trains are no longer going to make any stops.”
Sadly enough, with the family court system, people don’t have the recourse of humor. The pinacle of absurdity has been reached. Family courts do not make procedural stops any more as they rush to deprive people from their parental rights.
Check out the Mejia family’s case. Alfonso Mejia and Margarita Almaraz were undocumented immigrants from Mexico living in the U.S., with two of Almaraz children from a previous marriage.  According to Mark Stevenson’s Associated Press article, the couple did not go to court after accusations of child abuse were pressed against them. The couple is deported anyway without the children, born in the US. In Pennsylvania courts too, they are fellows like Dally, the infamous judge that deprived Encarnación Bail Romero of her parental rights: Proceedings started to terminate Mejia and Almaraz’s parental rights and to adopt out the children to an American family. Fortunately, the Chester County judge accepted that the testimonies be made with Skype from Mexico City, and the family was reunited after two years of separation.
Obviously, such ordeals could be avoided if parental rights of undocumented immigrants were to be acknowledged in the first place.

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