All she knew was that they were going to Disney World.
Camila Cabello was a young child when her and her mother made their way from Cuba to the U.S. by way of Mexico. Her father, a Mexican national, did not have a visa at the time so he was forced to follow after them since their Cuban citizenship gave them access to the U.S. without a visa. “Made In Miami” is sharing the story of Cabello and her family’s immigration to the U.S. to give her a better life. But what they didn’t know when they made the move was that Cabello would become one of the biggest names in music.
Cabello and her mother were detained for 22 hours when they first crossed the border into the U.S. From there, they made their way to Miami where they waited for her father to join them. However, time after time, her father was denied his visa to come to the U.S.
“I had been desperate to see my family,” Cabello’s father says in the video. “I swam the river, and practically risked my life. What you want is to be with you family and honestly it was the happiest trip of my life.”
Cabello, whose song “Havana” was a No. 1 hit in the U.S., is still in awe of her parents’ sacrifices and struggles. It is a story that many immigrant children and children of immigrants experience. The video goes on to explain how Cabello went from a shy kid to a member of Fifth Harmony to a breakthrough solo artist. The transformation is something not even her family could have expected.
“I never sang in front of my family. I was just super shy,” Cablleo says in the video. “I would just start crying.”
It is with unrelenting sadness that we report the death of Heydi Gámez García, 13, who took her life after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.
Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.
The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.
Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter
Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.
Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.
A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.
After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.
He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.
“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”
Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.
He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”
The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.
She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.
She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.
Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”
The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.
It is the only empathic way to relate to the emotional scars of our community. Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many.
What on earth are we doing?
How can anyone go about business as usual? How do we humanize brown-skinned people to every voter and decision-maker? The only way we know how is to continually voice your concerns to your representatives and create space for these stories. Don’t look away. The grief of the Gámaz family is all of our grief.
A Manuel, you did not fail your daughter. We all did. We are so sorry.
The president made a show last week of ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids last weekend. None were reported but the continued fearmongering used against the undocumented community for political gain is impacting families across the country. One family in San Francisco admitted to ABC 7 San Francisco that they created an elaborate plan to hide their parents if ICE breaks the law and forces themselves into the home.
The continuous threat of immigration raids has prompted immigrants across the nation to take action and protect themselves.
The president of the United States continues to call for immigration raids nationwide, leaving families and communities an edge. The political war waged from the White House on the immigrant communities is taking a toll on families wishing to live in peace.
In response to the raids ordered last weekend, ABC7 news interviewed a mixed-status family about how they planned to deal with the raids. They admitted that it is something they are constantly concerned about and a year ago they planned a way to avoid having their family ripped apart.
“This weekend was very scary. I don’t want to lose my parents,” a young woman told the reporter while standing next to her mother.
The ABC 7 reporter asked the family if they have a plan and they admitted that they do have a plan. Not only do they know their rights and acknowledge that they do not answer the door if there is a knock they were not expecting. The family has a plan if ICE breaks the law and forces themselves into the home, something we have seen happen to multiple families in the past.
“So, we always say that if we do have people knock at the door, to not answer, to pretend like we’re not even home,” the young woman said. “If there is, like, a forced entry, we also have a hiding spot for our parents.”
It might seem extreme, but immigration advocates are ringing the alarm about just how the ICE agency works.
ICE has been terrorizing immigrant families for years. There have been several examples of immigration authorities breaking down doors to arrest undocumented people despite the laws restricting them from such actions.
The historical comparisons made by politicians and activists is startling for many Americans.
The camps along the southern border of the U.S. have been compared to concentration camps by many Americans. Jewish activists have drawn this comparison as well as calling on the end of such conditions. However, some politicians are fighting to change the semantics around the camps detaining migrants in inhumane conditions. For some, they fear being connected to a party allowing these concentration camps to reemerge in 2019.
Watch the video of a family admitting their desperate plan to stay together.