Things That Matter

An Army Veteran’s Mom Was Deported Back To Mexico After Showing Up For A Meeting With ICE

Imagine living in the United States for 31 years, raising your kids there, have a son enrol in the Army to defend your adopted country and then suddenly being deported to a country you no longer recognize as your own. Well, that is what the mother of an Army Officer experienced a few weeks ago in a case that has caught the media’s attention. Her son argues that her case was mishandled and that she should not have been sent to Tijuana, where she knows almost no one.

Military families make huge sacrifices to serve their country and even though special deferrals are sometimes granted, they hold their breath expecting the worst. And the worst is exactly what ends up happening sometimes. 

The beginning of 2020 spelled doom for Rocio Rebollar Gomez y su familia as she was sent to Mexico after building a life in the United States.

Rebollar Gomez, now 51-years-old, had three children in the United States, including 30-year-old Second Lt. Gibram Cruz, who has served in the army for half a decade. She has a life in the United States and had hired a lawyer to deal with her migratory status in the best possible way. She even was scheduled to self-deport and had agreed on that with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

She attended a meeting with ICE, not knowing that the authorities would deport her then and there! 

Gibram Cruz has called ICE’s actions inhumane. As The New York Times reports, ICE acted on the first opportunity they got to deport Rocio Rebollar Gomez to Mexico: “Ms. Gomez, 51, was previously scheduled to self deport and that plan was known to ICE, the family’s lawyer, Tessa Cabrera, said on Friday. Instead, as the family went to an ICE office to discuss her case, Ms. Gomez was taken across the border to Tijuana without a chance to say goodbye, Ms. Cabrera said”. This is just appalling. Actions like this spark psychological trauma in a situation that is already dire to begin with. It feels like a premeditated effort to add insult to injury. 

Rocio Rebollar Gomez tried to do things right and explore every avenue to stay in the United States, including benefits given to military families.

Lt. Gibram Cruz claims that his mother was “snuck her out through the back” and that she was in Mexico in less than half an hour. Rebollar Gomez ran a small business selling health products and also drove for Uber. According to NYT she also explored an exemption provided to military families for service to country, as she “had attempted to stay in the United States legally, including deferred action under the discretionary option for military families through Citizen and Immigration Services, Ms. Cabrera said”. She had previously been removed from the country in 1995, 2005 and 2009 but found her way back to her family. 

ICE has responded and says that her removal was deserved, but Lt Gibran Cruz claims his mom did what any woman in her situation would have done.

As NYT reports, Mary G. Houtmann, a spokeswoman for ICE, said that “Ms. Gomez’s 2009 removal was the result of a 2008 order by an immigration judge and that she illegally re-entered the country after that.”

Gibran does not deny the fact that his mother re-entered the country illegally, but claims that her removal was unnecessary: “Her as a responsible mother did what any mother in her situation would do and came back to care for her children by any means. A country that was founded on immigrants should be welcoming to my mother, who her whole life has been an outstanding citizen.”

He continued while at a press conference: “We have always provided and succeeded by ourselves. We simply asked ICE to exercise some discretion and let her continue being a contributing member of her society”. Gibran also stressed the fact that military families make a lot of sacrifices and special considerations should be explored. 

In the meantime, Rocio’s family is worried about her safety while in Mexico.

Rocio’s family is concerned about her safety back in Mexico. According to one of her daughters, Karla McKissick, one of Rocio’s brothers was abducted in Acapulco and is now presumed dead. His body has never been found. Rocio will stay with a half-sister she had not seen in a decade. The family lawyer has indicated that they have run out of options. In the meantime, the family will go south of the border to bring her supplies, but the family has been torn apart and left traumatized and scarred for life.  

Students Under Investigation After Flashing White Power Symbols On National TV During Army/Navy Football Game

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Students Under Investigation After Flashing White Power Symbols On National TV During Army/Navy Football Game

@TheTNHoller / Twitter

The United States Military Academy has opened a formal investigation into whether Army cadets and Navy midshipmen flashed white power symbols during a nationally televised broadcast of the Army-Navy football game Saturday. At least three individuals flashed the upside-down “ok” hand gesture, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate symbol meant to signify “white power.” Footage of the gestures went viral on Twitter as folks circulated allegations that the military students were flashing white power symbols on nationally televised media “because they fully understand that most people in the dominant society share their views, and there will be no serious punishment against them.” President Trump attended the game and visited both locker rooms before the start of the match.

“The United States Military Academy is fully committed to developing leaders of character who embody the Army values,” Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, The United States Military Academy’s superintendent, said in a statement. Meanwhile, Naval Academy officials appointed a preliminary inquiry officer to head up the internal investigation. 

Twitter is calling for the expulsion of the students who flashed the symbol, which seemed especially telling when flashed behind the head of a black cadet.

CREDIT: @BIGKAHUNAVAN / TWITTER

Two cadets clearly flash white power hand signals; one of them does it right behind the head of a black cadet. This is on live TV at the Army-Navy game. The @NavalAcademy should kick these students out,” one Twitter user called out. Another person wants to expel them and fine them for the taxpayer dollars that went toward their education thus far. “Imagine how these young black men will feel when they see this footage of their classmates flashing white power signals directly behind their heads. This is shameful and horrific behavior,” comments another user. 

Meanwhile, others are saying that the gestures are far more sophomoric. “IT’S THE FREAKING CIRCLE GAME!,” tweeted one POC. The alleged game is based on tricking someone into looking at the hand gesture which would allow you to playfully punch that person. If you ever played the VW Beetle game as a kid, it’s pretty similar. Others don’t buy it. “Right behind the head of the black guy? Come on…” asks one user. “I ain’t buying it either. If it were true, the black guy or other minorities would be playing the “game” as well. Funny, the “game” signal givers hands are NEVER BROWN. Why’s that now?” asks another Twitter user.

That said, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) details a much more insidious and increasingly common use of the “O.K.” hand gesture that began in 2017.

CREDIT: @GININATEACUP1 / TWITTER

Both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Anti-Defamation League have described the symbol as hate speech. White nationalists first started using the symbol because of how it creates a “W” and a “P” to denote “white power.” In 2017, internet gateway to the alt-right, 4chan, started disseminating the symbol as a way to “trigger liberals.” SPLC says that the symbol is a “deliberate attempt to “trigger liberals” into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place.” According to SPLC, the hoax started when the following post went viral: “We must flood twitter and other social media websites with spam, claiming that the OK hand signal is a symbol of white supremacy. Make fake accounts with basic white girl names and type shit like: OMG that’s so truuuuu…” It seems to be working. 

Before the 4chan hoax went viral and spread to anyone who was simply anti-liberal, it was used by alt-right figures and white nationalists. In fact, the white supremacist who murdered over 50 worshippers in the Christchurch mosque flashed the symbol in court.

Plausible deniability remains the crux of the issue. The “O.K.” signal is so ubiquitous, it makes it difficult to prove malicious intent.

CREDIT: @HAMDIA_AHMED / TWITTER

Still, at least three different young men flashed the symbol on national television this weekend, knowing President Trump was in the audience. Several Trump supporters have expressed glee in using the symbol simply because of its underlying intent to prove liberals and minorities as triggered.

Military officials feel its “inappropriate” to speculate any further on the students’ intent while the investigation is underway. 

CREDIT: @HAMDIA_AHMED / TWITTER

The SPLC cites the use of the “O.K.” hand gesture as a ploy to “trigger” liberals as participation in a “toxic subculture.” The Center cites such a troll as someone with a “direct gateway not just to the alt-right, but also to even more poisonous cultures such as that of woman-hating “incels.” The Center says that “it’s easy” for a simple “troll” to morph into a white supremacist surreptitiously signaling your presence to other white supremacists.

READ: A Family At Universal Studios Had Their Trip Ruined By A Character From ‘Despicable Me’ Who Flashed A White Power Symbol

A High School Student Is Being Detained By ICE But His School Is Rallying Support Behind Him

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A High School Student Is Being Detained By ICE But His School Is Rallying Support Behind Him

Will Lanzoni

A New Haven, Connecticut school was rocked by the news that one of its students had been detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). The announcement by the principal came over Wilbur Cross High School’s PA system and sent shockwaves throughout classrooms.

Mario Aguilar was arrested by ICE when the 18-year-old attended a court hearing to handle charges over a traffic accident. Students and teachers were unsettled by his detention. They decided to support Aguilar through the immigration process and fight against his deportation. 

Teachers even tried to send him his homework — a symbolic gesture that they were still holding a space for him in their hearts, minds, and classrooms. ICE sent it back.

Teachers are heartbroken over Aguilar’s detention. 

Students and teachers orchestrated a coordinated effort to support Aguilar. They wrote letters to ICE to influence his release. They showed up to his court hearing. Students printed “Free Mario” posters and stickers to raise money for his commissary. They kept his desk empty in Spanish class believing if they did that maybe Aguilar would come home soon.  

Teachers sent him his homework and some books — but it was sent back, labeled return to sender. ICE asserts that if it is not related to his case, Aguilar can’t have it, according to CNN

“Mario was hundreds of miles away from his family, from his home. He got stability at school and security within this community, until he was taken from us,” Principal Edith Johnson, whose parents came to the mainland from Puerto Rico, said at a press conference. “Throughout my years as an educator, I’ve lost too many children to community violence, tragic accidents, medical conditions and significant trauma that keeps our students out of school — and now, another terrifying variable certain to take students off course, with ICE arrests.”

Aguilar’s Spanish teacher Mary Perez Estrada was there during his asylum hearing. She was one of the teachers who sent him books she hoped would comfort him. “As Mario spoke before the court, detailing how he’d fled persecution from gangs in Guatemala, Perez Estrada hoped the judge would see what she did in her student — someone who deserves a chance,” according to CNN. “The judge didn’t make a ruling that day. He told the court he’d announce his decision on December 12.”

Wilbur Cross students demand that ICE “Free Mario.”

Aguilar was detained by ICE while attending a court hearing related to his involvement in a car crash. When his cellphone slid off of his dashboard he accidentally hit a parked car when he attempted to retrieve the phone. No one was hurt and the vehicle was only minorly damaged. 

“I hope that he knows we’re fighting for him and I hope that helps, but that’s very minimal when you’re stripped away of your humanity,” said CT Students for a Dream organizer Anthony Barroso. “We’re here to also to show Mario if he can hear the news, that we are fighting for him, and many others in the same situation.”

Doing nothing, even if what is being done won’t change the result, did not feel like an option. For the students and teachers, for Aguilar’s community, they understood that being deported back to Guatemala could mean sending him back to his death. 

“The goal is to let everybody know what the situation is, spread the word, so we can be a bigger community,” junior Wilbur Cross High School student Stephanie Pawcar told NBC.“I don’t personally know Mario, but he is a student at Wilbur Cross and it’s really important because it’s something that needs to be talked about.”

According to Principal Johnson, students have written over 400 letters in support so far with more rallies and protests planned. 

Students and teachers are arguing that Aguilar has a right to fight his deportation.

Aguilar’s peers believe he should be able to stay in the United States and fight his case in the courts, rather than being sent back to the country he fled when he was 16. Gabriel Gonzalez is a senior at Aguilar’s school and a budding filmmaker. She is utilizing the medium to create a film to help her classmates understand why they should care about Aguilar’s case. “He wasn’t known before, but now literally there’s posters around the school with his face on it everywhere.

People didn’t know about him because he was just a regular student,” Gonzalez told CNN.

“But now the fact that just this ordinary student was taken, his whole life has been turned upside down because he happens to be from somewhere else, shows that this can happen to anyone. And it shouldn’t happen to anyone, because we’re all just trying to live our lives as teenagers or normal, everyday people walking around the street.”