Things That Matter

[VIDEO] Graduate Makes His Family Proud And Finds Out In The Most Emotional Way Possible

Getting through college, earning your degree, and graduating is not an easy process – especially when you’re a first-generation college student. But despite the stress and sleepless nights, reaching the finish line is the best feeling in the world because you know you’ll be able to share in the glory with your friends and family.

Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

For one college student, things didn’t work out that way and his story is now going viral.

In the Twitter video, a young graduate gets emotional after hearing the voice of his recently deported papi in a teddy bear.

The video has already been viewed more than 200,000 times and received hundreds of comments.

According to the video, his parents were recently deported and his sister bought him a teddy bear that had a recording of his father’s voice.

The father goes on to tell his son how proud he is of his son’s accomplishments and omg we can’t handle all the emotion.

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

For real though, like we are all crying.

Many on Twitter took this as a chance to remind everyone you never know how much time you have with your family.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

So make sure to treat every moment with them like it could be your last.

And others wanted to give a shout out to the young boy who, despite the trauma and stress of the situation, is still making his dreams come true.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

Like seriously, the boy loses his parents to deportation. Imagine the trauma and sadness he must be experiencing. Yet somehow he’s found the strength to not give up on his dreams.

En serio…this kid is making us all so proud.

Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to make your parents even more proud.

The compassionate sister also got loads of shout outs from a truly awe-inspired Twitter.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

For facing such a traumatic situation herself, props to her for trying to bring some light and joy into her brother’s life on this very special day.

Some Dads on Twitter spoke up and couldn’t imagine having had this happen to them or their children.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

Sure, it’s not the America we’re told about or taught about in class but it’s the America that we are living in and this is happening to thousands of people in our community.

The #KeepFamiliesTogether was invoked dozens of times in comments begging for the recent graduate to be reunited with his family.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

The Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane treatment of children and families has been a rallying cry for activists and community leaders to stand up and demand justice for families who have been separated.

And some on Twitter wanted to make sure that no matter how alone he feels without his parents, he has an entire new set of allies in his corner.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

As a recent graduate, you work so hard and always hope to be able to share that special moment with your closest friends and family – especially your papas who helped make it happen with their love and encouragement.

Some on Twitter pointed out that the video is actually from last year when the boy in the video lost his father in a car accident and his mother gave him the teddy bear. Truly heartbreaking.

VIDEO: Parents Break Down In Tears Over How Their Daughter Is Honoring Them At Her College Graduation

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This Inmate Firefighter Was Nearly Killed Battling California Blazes But Now He’s Facing Deportation

Things That Matter

This Inmate Firefighter Was Nearly Killed Battling California Blazes But Now He’s Facing Deportation

David McNew / Getty Images

Across the United States there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented Americans doing their part to protect and better the country. But far too often, our communities and our leaders don’t return the favor.

One man, a former inmate who was injured while battling California’s historic wildfires, was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he was released from prison. Instead of being given a second chance, he faces likely deportation back to his native country of Laos – a place he hasn’t known since he was 4 years old.

A California man is facing deportation after nearly dying on the frontlines of the state’s wildfires.

A formerly incarcerated firefighter who helped battle California’s historic wildfires is now in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, after the state notified the agency he was being released.

Bounchan Keola, 39, left his native Laos at the age of 4. His home is here in the United States – in San Leandro, CA to be exact. But he’s facing the ultimate punishment of being sent back to a place he knows nothing about.

“He made a mistake as a child. He came here impoverished and he was resettled as a refugee when he was 6,” said his San Francisco Asian Law Caucus attorney, Anoop Prasad. “And he literally risked his life. California didn’t have to call ICE to deport him…This case is extremely sad and unfortunate. Society has failed him again and again.” 

Even more shocking is that Keola only had 14 days left on his prison term when he was crushed by a tree while battling the Zogg Fire in early October. He was soon released from prison but then taken into immigration custody by ICE.

While fighting a wildfire, Keyla was severely injured.

Credit: David McNew / Getty Images

Although Keola was convicted of attempted second degree murder, not only has he served his term but he also gave back to the community as one of the thousands of inmate firefighters battling the state’s blazes. In fact, he received a shorter prison sentence because of the extra credit he earned for fighting fires. 

Incarcerated firefighters get two days credit off their sentence for every day they’re working and are paid up to $5 a day. It’s estimated they save the state tens of millions of dollars a year. 

But then Keola got injured.

While he was stationed in Redding, CA., a tree fell on him while he was clearing brush to stop the fire from spreading. He is still in excruciating pain, his lawyer said, and he has not received the proper medical attention.

Since his release from prison, Keola has been in ICE detention.

Just seven days after being injured and with seven days left in his prison term, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation notified ICE that his release would be coming up. On Oct. 16, the day Keola finished serving his prison sentence in Sacramento, ICE came to pick him up. On Oct. 29, an immigration judge ordered his removal to Laos, records show.

Since being picked up by ICE, Keola has been held at a detention facility in Kern County. Although he faces a deportation order, Laos doesn’t have a repatriation agreement with the U.S., which means he could end up staying in California. But his fate is still unclear. And only a pardon from Newsom, his attorneys said, would expunge his record and allow him to go home freely to his parents and sister. 

I just want to go home and give my mom and dad a hug,” Keola told The Guardian, the first news organization to report the story. “All I know is I’m American. I’ve never thought of myself not being a citizen. I’m just asking for that one, second chance.”

Keola’s fate is in the hands of Gov. Newsom as he awaits a potential pardon for his crime.

Gov. Newsom has painted himself as a champion of those who have been incarcerated and fought on the front lines to save California during the wildfire season. That’s why Keola and his attorney say that his fate is in the hands of the governor. He has asked for a pardon from his prison sentence, showing that he has changed for the better and that his service to the state battling wildfires should count for something.

On Sept. 11,  Newsom signed AB 2147, a bill that will allow formerly incarcerated people to be able to try to expunge their records and become professional firefighters. Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter,” Newsom later said in a tweet after signing the bill. 

Yet Keola, an inmate fighting fire on the frontlines, hasn’t been given that chance. And although California is a sanctuary state, which forbids most cooperation with ICE, Keola was still handed over to the agency.

Newsom’s spokesperson, Jesse Melgar, said in a statement: “We are unable to discuss individual clemency applications, but can assure that each application receives careful and individualized consideration.”

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Things That Matter

In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Photo: Bryan Cox/Getty Images

A bombshell report published in The Guardian alleges that ICE officers are using torture to force Cameroonian asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders. The report paints an even starker picture of Immigration and Customs Enforcement–an agency that is already widely criticized as corrupt and inhumane.

The deportation documents the immigrants have been forced to sign are called the Stipulated Orders of Removal. The documents waive asylum seekers’ rights to further immigration hearings and mean they consent to being deported.

The asylum seekers allege that the torture in ICE custody consisted of choking, beating, pepper-spraying, breaking fingers, and threats on their lives.

“I refused to sign,” recounted one Cameroonian asylum-seeker to The Guardian. “[The ICE officer] pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras.”

He continued: “They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck…They did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture.” Other witnesses recount similar violent experiences.

Experts believe that the escalation of deportations is directly related to the upcoming election and the possibility that ICE might soon be operated under a different administration. The theory is that ICE is coercively deporting “key witnesses” in order to “silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.”

“In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, to The Guardian.

Many of the Cameroonians who are in the U.S. to seek asylum have legitimate claims to danger back in their home countries. Many of these Cameroonians come from an English-speaking minority in Cameroon that are violently target by the government there–some have died. The violence has been condemned by The United Nations and Amnesty International.

As with many immigrant stories of people who are seeking asylum, these immigrants’ lives are in danger in their home country. They are coming to the United States for a better life. But instead, they are faced with the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whom they claim brutally mistreat them.

According to report, the U.S. is deporting entire airplanes full of asylum-seekers back to their home countries–deportations that have not been given due process and have been authorized under duress.

An ICE spokesperson contacted by The Guardian called the reports “sensationalist” and “unsubstantiated” while roundly refuting the claims. “Ice is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. Ice provides safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

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