Things That Matter

Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

Heydi Gámez García, 13, took her life on July 2nd 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 to his daughter. 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.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

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.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

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.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

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.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

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.

Credit: @apbenven / Twitter

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?

Credit: @JoeGould50 / Twitter

Update:

On July 18, Heydi was taken off life support. Her family told The New York Times they decided to donate her organs. “She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live in another person, she can help another person live,” her father told The Times.

ICE Keeps People In Cages And Now A New Survey Proves It’s America’s Most Hated Government Agency

Things That Matter

ICE Keeps People In Cages And Now A New Survey Proves It’s America’s Most Hated Government Agency

Pew Research Center, a reliable source for polling about U.S. politics and policy, found that Americans like ICE the least of all federal agencies. While public trust in federal institutions is at a historic low, many expressed favorable views of agencies that provide social services and goods. 

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. postal service (free mail delivery!) ranked highest with 90 percent, with the National Park Service coming in a close second at 86 percent, and NASA in at third with 81 percent. 

However, Pew notes, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the sole agency asked about in the survey viewed more negatively (54% unfavorable) than positively (42% favorable), while the public is divided in its view of the Department of Education (48% favorable, 48% unfavorable).”

ICE ranked the worst federal agency by Americans.

While ICE is the most hated federal agency, the distaste for the organization is largely split across partisan lines. About 70 percent of Republicans and right of center independents view ICE favorably, but only 19 percent of Democrats and left of center independents do. However, overall ICE had the lowest favorability ranking of the bunch with the least percentage of 42% and the highest percentage of unfavorability with a percentage of 54. 

Other organizations that were ranked unfavorable were ones that appear to be failing the public, the second most-hated was the Department of Education, and the third most-hated was Veterans Affairs. Both of the organizations have been under scrutiny for years, while the Dept of Ed. has come under more fire under United States Secretary of Education and Trump appointee Betsy DeVos. 

Criticism of ICE mounts with Abolish ICE.

Abolish ICE is a political movement that advocates for the abolition of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Abolish ICE has gained more momentum since 2017 when the Trump administration began ramping up stricter immigration policies, including banning Muslims, diverting $6.2 billion in funds to build a wall at the southern border between U.S. and Mexico, and utilizing a child separation policy. 

Abolish ICE proponents note that ICE was created in 2003, and thus, it is not necessary to monitor immigration and maintain border security. 

“In this era, ICE has just taken off the gloves, going full throttle without regard to consequences,” Katrina Eiland, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant Rights Project, told PS Mag. “This is a perfect example of that. They don’t have any logical enforcement priorities anymore—everyone is an enforcement priority.”

While ICE was initially intended to monitor and deport immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S., under the Trump administration, and sometimes in Obama’s, it has been used to track those who have committed the “crime” of entering the U.S. without documentation. 

Activist and writer Sean McElwee is credited with popularizing the #AbolishICE hashtag in 2017 which catapulted it into a movement in the real world spawning protests. The Hill also notes that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the call to action into the political sphere. 

“The biggest moment for the Abolish ICE movement though came after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, upset Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), in a primary. As she leapt into the spotlight, she brought the calls to abolish ICE, into the national debate,” according to The Hill

“Within days of her victory, abolishing ICE had become a litmus test for Democrats running in the midterms and for those seen as potential 2020 presidential contenders.” 

Advocates believe ICE is a tool of white supremacy.

ICE has used increasingly brutal tactics like force-feeding detainees on hunger strikes, arresting citizens on the basis that they “look Hispanic,” and arresting undocumented immigrants when they show up for court appearances. 

The ACLU believes ICE and Border Patrol have increasingly abused their power, claiming their removal tactics take away immigrants’ rights to a fair hearing and that they potentially violate many of the Fourth Amendment’s protections including, ” the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and freedom from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.” 

“The central assumption of ICE in 2018 is that any undocumented immigrant is inherently a threat. In that way, ICE’s tactics are philosophically aligned with racist thinkers like Richard Spencer,” McElwee told PS Mag

“Though the [Democratic] party has moved left on core issues from reproductive rights to single-payer health care, it’s time for progressives to put forward a demand that deportation be taken not as the norm but rather as a disturbing indicator of authoritarianism.” 

Pew notes that just 17 percent of adults say they trust the federal government to do what is right, while 71 percent say they trust the government “only some of the time.” While it remains to be seen if ICE will ever be abolished, it is clear that the majority of Americans would prefer it that way. 

This Deported Veteran Has Returned To The US And Is Now An American Citizen

Things That Matter

This Deported Veteran Has Returned To The US And Is Now An American Citizen

SCREENSHOT / Green Card Veterans / FACEBOOK

Last year, Army veteran Miguel Perez was deported to Mexico, now he has finally become a United States citizen. While Perez served in the military with deployments in Afghanistan, a prior nonviolent drug conviction is why officials say the veteran was deported without warning. Perez was granted clemency by Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and with the support of Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran herself, he was finally granted citizenship. 

Perez’s nightmare makes national news.

Perez arrived in the U.S. from Mexico legally when he was 8 years old. His parents and children are citizens, and Perez lived here with a Greencard for much of his life. In 2002 and 2004, Perez served in Afghanistan, when he returned, like many soldiers, he had PTSD. 

Pritzker said Perez should have had an “expedited path to citizenship” by way of an executive order by President George W. Bush, “but due to oversight, he was not afforded that opportunity.”

Perez says the experience at war overseas caused him to have PTSD and become addicted to drugs. It was this untreated addiction that would cause him to receive a felony drug conviction. He was convicted of delivering over two pounds of cocaine to an undercover cop in 2008 where he pleaded guilty. 

After serving his time for 7.5 years, in 2016 he was turned over to immigration officials where his Greencard was revoked. Last year, Perez was deported to Mexico. He says he was given no warning and no chance to speak to his family. 

Illinois Gov. J. N. Pritzker pardons Perez.

After a national public outcry, officials believed Perez was wrongfully deported. Pritzker granted him clemency in hopes of paving the way for the naturalization process with a clean record. “Now we believe that Miguel is eligible for naturalization because criminal conviction doesn’t render him ineligible through ‘bad moral character.’ That’s the term they use,” his lawyer, Chris Bergin told journalists in Laredo, Texas. “That’s what we’re going to argue, and I think it’s a good argument.” 
Bergin was sympathetic to Perez’s situation, suggesting it was a failure of the system to provide adequate support for veterans. 
“He served and saw serious action in Afghanistan,” Bergin said. “If we do support the troops, then we gotta support them all.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth fights on behalf of Perez and immigrants.

Senator Duckworth heard Perez’s case and went through many efforts to spare him from deportation by writing several letters of support including one directly asking U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson to personally review his case. 

“Miguel Perez was willing to protect our nation in uniform and his experiences after coming home—including the great lengths he went to reform his life—show us why we should never give up on our combat Veterans. While he shouldn’t have been deported in the first place, I’m glad he’s received this parole after Governor Pritzker granted him clemency to attend his citizenship hearing, and I wish Miguel the best of luck. It will be a proud day for our country when we can call Miguel a fellow American,” Senator Duckworth said in a statement. 

On the one-year anniversary of Perez’s deportation, she re-introduced three bills to support veterans and service members from deportation. The Veterans Visa and Protection Act, HOPE Act and I-VETS Act, “would prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen VA healthcare services for Veterans.” 

Perez becomes finally becomes a citizen. 

Long overdue swearing-in as a US Citizen!!!

Posted by Green Card Veterans on Friday, October 4, 2019

It wasn’t a call that the 41-year-old anticipated given the circumstances, but it was a welcome one nonetheless: he would be sworn in as a United States citizen. 

“I was like no way. Seriously? He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s official,’ ” Perez told CNN of when his lawyer got the news. 

Perez completed the naturalization oath with Green Card Veterans present. Now that he is back in the U.S. the veteran can spend time with his family and receive treatment for his health; Perez was being treated for an undisclosed issue when he received the call. 

“I get to take care of my health, first and foremost,” he said. “It’s been a long … a long journey, a long battle.”

On his first day back, Perez told CNN all he plans to do is go bowling with his son. Inspired by Perez’s situation Senator Duckworth and bill co-sponsors Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Senator Ron Wyden plan to keep fighting to prevent veterans from being deported.

“Men and women willing to wear our uniform shouldn’t be deported by the same nation they risked their lives to defend,” Duckworth said.