Entertainment

These Celebrities Experienced The Devastating Impact Of The US Immigration System And Are Fighting Back

The current crackdown by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on individuals who live in the United States as undocumented migrants has generated concern throughout the world. Stories of broken families and shattered hearts constantly appear on the media, and thousands of hard-working migrants tremble every time the president tweets a threat announcing a further crackdown. Some celebrities have been able to voice their concerns and share their stories of family and community separation. But let’s not forget that not everyone is afforded a voice, and that lives are being torn apart every single day! 

These are a few of the celebs who have been affected by immigration policies and who have spoken out against the separation of family and friends in a country that was founded on the principle of having open arms for new, hard-working arrivals. 

Diane Guerrero (actress, Orange is the New Black), whose parents were taken by ICE when she was a teenager

Credit: Instagram. @dianexguerrero

The actress was born in the United States from Colombian parents. When she was only 14 in 2001, a high school freshman, her parents were taken by ICE and deported back to South America due to their undocumented status. Guerrero told The Washington Post reflecting on her own experience as a teenager and what younger kids must be going through: “I remember my cries, and it’s nothing like what a 2-year-old must feel. It’s terrifying. I relied on friends and the kindness of strangers. I can only imagine how much harder it would be for children to have to rely on [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents and prison guards for comfort.”

Guerrero narrated her experiences in the book My Family Divided.

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She also told Vogue: “We need to protect our children. There are real people behind these issues: families, children’s lives at stake. I was a casualty of it. Me staying behind, living the way I did, a lot of kids go through this. We need comprehensive immigration reform so that we’re not creating this cycle of poverty and depression and everything that comes with separating a family.” What a story, and what an incredibly strong woman. 

Cardi B, who dealt with the deportation of a dear friend.

21savage / Instagram
Credit: Instagram. @iamcardib

Cardi B is famous for being outspoken and never, ever holding back (that is why we love her!). On February 4, 2019, she came in defense of her friend, British rapper 21 Savage, a British citizen who was taken by ICE because he allegedly overstayed his visa. Cardi B wrote: ““Now let me get ghetto ….and for ya d*** breath mother****** talking bout ‘sO hE nOt FrOm AtLaNta’ he grew up there,” she wrote. “His kids and family live there and BLEW UP there with the support of the community he was raised in. Thank you @21savage for being really good friend to me and @offsetyrn and always coming thru when we need you (sic).” Those who defended the rapper claim that the detention had a racial bias: perhaps his real name, Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, had something to do with it?  

Real Housewives star Teresa Giudice, whose husband was never a U.S. citizen. 

Credit: Instagram. @teresaguidice

Giudice’s husband Joe is due to be deported to Italy after being released from prison in 2018. As it happens, Joe was not aware that he was never a United States citizen, as he migrated with his parents when he was an infant. A statement released by the authorities read: “As standard practice, ICE, through its Criminal Alien Program (CAP) works with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to identify foreign-born nationals who are amenable to removal”.

We can only think of all the Latino families that are in the same boat. In the end, it is all about family. As E! News reported at the time, a source informed them that: “Teresa and Joe have no current plan in place for what to do next in their marriage, even though she is committed to finding a way to make this situation work for her family”. Joe remains in ICE custody as the legal proceedings continue. 

Stories like these break our hearts, but some celebrities are using their migratory status to raise awareness!

The Cuban singer shared how at just six years old, she left her hometown of Havana with her mother on a trip she thought would take her to Disney World. From Mexico, the singer traveled to the United States through Texas where she left on a 36-hour bus ride to Miami. Together, Cabello and her mother started off a backpack that held onto their possessions and $500. “Her goal was always to end up in the United States,” Cabello told the magazine in her retelling of the story. “When she got pregnant with me, she wanted me to be in a place where there was no ceiling to whatever I wanted to do.”

Camila Cabello’s story concerns how much her parents were willing to give up for her in order to ensure she had the best life possible.

While Cabello’s mother had been an architect in Cuba she worked in the U.S. at a Marshalls. To ensure Cabello could attend a public school of the highest quality her mother used a fake address associated with an affluent neighborhood. A year later, Cabello’s father, who is from Mexico, swam the Rio Grande to join his family. To help his family make ends meet her father washed cars at a mall. In 2016, he finally received his green card.

César Millán has also spoken up about living in fear of deportation.

Credit: Instagram. @cesarsway

The most famous dog trainer of them all, Mexican (and now an American citizen) César Millán arrived to the United States as an undocumented worker. He was just 21 and had $100 dollars with him when he crossed the border. His story is a true manifestation of the American Dream and evidences the hard-working nature of many migrants. He wrote in his book “Cesar’s Way”: “I am not ashamed to say it: I came to the United States illegally, for the poor and working class of Mexico, there is no other way to come to America except illegally. It’s impossible”. He is now a United States citizen and has generated hundreds of jobs. 

Bambadjan Bamba, the beloved “Black Panther” is a Dreamer.

Credit: Instagram. @bambathegreat

Bambadjan Bamba is a 35-year-old actor who “came out” as a Dreamer in 2017 after the Trump administration threatened to end the program. He was just ten when he arrived in the United States with his parents, feeling a precarious situation in his native country of Ivory Coast.

He was one of the first and few Hollywood actors to reveal his DACA status. He told Variety: “I’m going public first and foremost because I’m sick and tired of living in fear and hiding about this issue. I’ve kind of been in this status for 25 years of my life. I remember when the administration decided to cancel DACA — that was the last straw for me because not only am I married, but I have a daughter now. I didn’t feel like I could still sit back and keep hitting the snooze button.”

Salma Hayek has said that she was also undocumented when she started out in Hollywood

Credit: Instagram. @salmahayek

Our beloved Salmita moved to Los Angeles in 1991 as a student, hoping to become an actress. She has admitted that her visa expired and was in the country illegally, a fact that has been confirmed by her publicist. The truth is that Salma is one of the most representative Mexican voices in the United States, and she often voices her support for immigration reform.

She told World Entertainment News Network about her early days working in Hollywood saying “We are productive for society in many ways. The movies that I’ve worked in have amounted to almost one billion dollars. This is good for this economy. We contribute and it’s a lot of money that I had a part in”.

She also defended the decision of farm workers and other types of laborers to migrate north: “If they could work legally, then they would pay the taxes that benefit America. There needs to be immigration reform. It is really horrible that we are not spending the time actually working out a good well-planned, well thought-out immigration reform.” Hear, hear, girl! 

ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

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ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

DHS / Public Domain

As the influx of undocumented immigrants continues to surge, there’s a great distinction that should be made about this group. There are currently hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that are being detained in detention centers across the United States. There are also thousands of undocumented immigrants that are currently seeking asylum. Some are in the U.S. and others are waiting in Mexico under the Trump’s Administration “Remain in Mexico” policy.

So, understanding that there are undocumented immigrants both in the U.S. and in Mexico, the ones that are technically in the custody of the U.S. officials are the ones in this country and not a foreign one. We point this out in order for readers to understand the fatal casualties that occur in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others that occur on the border (including those that die in the Rio Grande), and people that die or go missing in Mexico. The records for all of these deaths are separate. 

ICE is reporting that a 37-year-old undocumented man from Mexico died in their custody. He is the eighth person to die in ICE custody. 

According to a press release statement by ICE, Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza was pronounced dead by medical staff at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois on Sept. 10 at 9:35 p.m. The doctor that was treating Rodriguez-Espinoza said the preliminary cause of death as a subdural hematoma. A subdural hematoma “is a collection of blood outside the brain,” according to WebMD. “Subdural hematomas are usually caused by severe head injuries.”

Despite the preliminary cause of death, ICE is reporting that his death was caused by his alcoholism.

Here’s the ICE report: 

“On the day of his arrest, during his intake screening, Rodriguez-Espinoza admitted to daily consumption of alcohol. On Sept. 7, facility staff observed Rodriguez-Espinoza acting confused and the facility’s physician ordered Rodriguez-Espinoza transported to the Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital emergency room in Woodstock, Illinois, for further evaluation due to his confusion and history of alcohol consumption. On Sept. 8, the hospital transferred him via ambulance to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, in Huntley, Illinois, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage. He was then transferred to Central DuPage Hospital for a neurosurgery consult. Rodriguez-Espinoza failed to respond during a neurological exam performed upon arrival at Central DuPage and the attending neurosurgeon advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza was unlikely to survive the surgery.” 

ICE is also reporting that Rodriguez-Espinoza was allegedly a member of the Latin Kings gang. 

According to Latino USA, the Latin Kings gang first began in Chicago back in the 1950s. Other outlets report that the Latin Kings have gang members situated all over the country, and elsewhere. It is unclear whether Rodriguez-Espinoza was actually affiliated with that gang, but ICE is reporting that he had two convictions, one in 2016 on a burglary conviction and another in 2008 and was charged with a theft conviction. “ICE contacted the Mexican Consulate to inform them of Rodriguez-Espinoza’s medical status and to request assistance locating his next of kin. Mexican Consular officials subsequently advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza had no known next of kin.”

ICE is also stating that 8 deaths within the fiscal year (Oct. 2018-present) is not many compared to the number of detainees they have.

Courtesy of  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“On an annual basis, anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 individuals are processed into ICE custody, many of whom have never had regular healthcare and suffer from severe acute and chronic medical conditions,” ICE stated. “The following chart [pictured above] shows that ICE is at a 6 year low regarding deaths on custody and the trend has been declining since 2004.”

However, as we previously noted in this article, ICE is not counting the overall number of undocumented deaths that occur at the border, or asylum seekers, or that of children. 

report that is public information on the ICE website shows six deaths since October. That number does not include the death of Rodriguez-Espinoza or that of Pedro Arriago-Santoya, who died on July 21 at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia. ICE reports that Arriago-Santoya died of “cardio-pulmonary arrest secondary to multi-organ system failure, endocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy with a low ejection fraction and respiratory failure.” 

Furthermore, an NBC News report from June shows that 24 undocumented immigrants died while in ICE Custody. So while ICE can say that this latest death is only the eighth death this fiscal year in ICE custody, that number is actually higher. 

ICE reports that they treat each person with the medical treatment needed and that each detainee has medical help available to them 24 hours a day. “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody. Staffing for detainees includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers like physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and a physician.”

READ: A New Documentary Is Showing An Untold And Heartbreaking Side Of The Undocumented Life In The US

ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

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ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

Sandy Huffaker / Sandy Huffaker

Last summer, images of undocumented immigrant children went viral. These images didn’t show them crying, or being taken away from their parents. These children were pictured alone in court. The nameless children had no one by their side, no one to represent them, and had no clue what was going on, despite the fact that they were there trying to seek asylum. In some cases, these children wore headphones as a means to translate what the judge was saying. However, given that they were just children, the translation was almost useless. Reports are now servicing that immigration officials are using the language barrier as a means to keep them out of the U.S. 

An op-ed, written by a volunteer at the border, states that asylum-seeking immigrants cannot read or write in English or in their native tongue and immigration officials are taking advantage of that.

Emily Reed, a recent grad student from Barnard University, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that stated she witnessed this manipulation from immigration officials against illiterate undocumented people. Reed was at the border in Texas volunteering with classmates at the South Texas Family Residential Center volunteering with the Dilley Pro Bono Project when she witnessed this manipulation. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection often conveniently exploit asylum seekers who cannot read. Along with an unfamiliarity with our deliberately complex immigration system, the illiteracy of Central American migrants, especially women, facilitates the deportation of parents and separation of families,” Reed wrote. She added, “By manipulating illiterate refugees who often unwittingly sign away their rights, the U.S. government is violating the basic tenets of the internationally recognized and protected right to seek asylum.” 

Reed added that her volunteer program with the legal center provided Spanish documents to the migrant families, but they couldn’t under that either.

“Simple translation is not enough,” she wrote. “The Dilley Pro Bono Project provides documents in Spanish, but even this paperwork was difficult for many migrant women to understand. Many women I helped to fill out paperwork struggled simply to write their children’s birth dates.”

The migrant families are being rushed within the court and legal process, which in turn, is causing deportation to happen a lot faster.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that the haste paperwork at the border made it possible for immigration officials to rush and deport undocumented immigrants. The ACLU stated this process should not be rushed because people need to take their time and understand what is going on and what it is that they’re signing. 

“This waiting period is crucial to ensure that parents have an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to fight their own removal cases, leave their children (who may have their own asylum claims) behind in the United States, or make some other decision,” the ACLU stated lasted year. “In short, families will be making life-altering decisions after months of traumatic separation — and the fact that the government is trying to shortchange them a matter of days to do so is galling.”

A New York Times report showed that 58,000 asylum seekers are currently stuck in Mexico under Trump’s policy because they’re awaiting asylum hearings.

The backlog for these asylum hearings is up to six to eight months, and when they’re ready for their hearing the majority of them won’t understand what needs to be done. This is why they need proper representation, and a patient legal system so they comprehend what is being asked of them and what the next steps are. 

What makes this matter even worse is that there’s not enough legal representation for each family unit, or individual, at the border. 

Last year, it was very apparent that there were not enough lawyers or legal help for undocumented immigrants at the border, and this year there’s even more undocumented people awaiting help and attempting to seek asylum. There people like Reed who want to help asylum seekers, but it’s not as easy as they might think. 

“People see the crisis happening, and they want to do something right now, which is great. But when we explain that this is a long-term fight, and we need your long-term commitment. That’s when people sort of back off.” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the communications director at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Huffington Post last year. 

If, however, you are willing to put in the time, or you’re interested in learning more about how you can provide legal help, or assist legal teams at the border, please reach out to: the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (“ProBAR”); the Immigration Justice Project (“IJP”); the ACLU of Texas; and RAICES.

READ: Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’