Personal Voices: Bring Back Our Husbands
We have not seen our husbands since September 2003. Homeland Security took them away without warning, maybe forever. Even though we are both naturalized US citizens, immigration laws deny our basic right to be with our life partners. We are now single mothers, fighting to keep our children, our jobs and our homes -- and on the verge of losing our minds.
Since Congress changed the deportation laws in 1996, over 1 million people have been deported. Since September 11, 2001 the government has launched an initiative to go after everyone with an old deportation order, even when they have families with US citizenship, tearing apart hundreds of thousands of families including ours.
My name is Carol MacDonald. My husband Linden Corrica and I are Guyanese New Yorkers. We married ten years ago, and raised our daughter Natasha in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Last year Linden, a Rastafarian, was arrested with a joint. The lawyer told him to plead guilty, without warning that he could get deported. A day after Linden began his two-week sentence at Rikers Island penitentiary, immigration officers came for him. They marked him for deportation, and transferred him to a Louisiana jail.
Immigration agents are stationed at Rikers to screen noncitizens -- including greencard-holders like Linden -- and hand them off for deportation. When Immigration detains and deports people after they finish their sentence, even for misdemeanors, that's double jeopardy.
Linden has now been in immigration prison for nine months -- eighteen times longer than the sentence he received for his underlying crime. He calls home every week from detention. Once no one heard from him for a month because he was put in solitary. In January, our daughter Natasha picked up a letter from her father, postmarked from Louisiana. She said, "Mommy, where is Louisiana?" I had to lie and say it was in Guyana.
Raising a daughter without any help is a struggle. Natasha got sick last week and begged "Mommy, I need you, I need you. Don't leave." She started to throw up. No matter how much it hurt, I had to send her to school and go to work as a home health aid. Our landlord tried to evict us three days before Christmas because he wanted more money. We had to fight to stay in the apartment, and must now pay a higher rent.
My name is Barbara Facey. I married Howard Facey in 1997. I immediately filed an immigration petition for Howard, but didn't hear anything for six years. Last summer, a lawyer advised Howard to check on his paperwork at Federal Plaza. Immigration officers there told him to return the next Monday for work authorization. When he did, he was detained and shipped to Jamaica based on a 1995 deportation order from Alaska. Howard never saw a judge.
Howard called home from JFK airport at 6 a.m. to say that he was being deported. My heart sank, but I did not have the time to break down. I had to get our three kids ready for school, and rush to work at a local drugstore. Letisha, Kristina, and Christopher ask for their dad everyday. Their grades are dropping, and the school counselor says they are depressed. Childcare is really hard. When a family friend who was supposed to get Christopher from school was late a few times, the principal threatened to call Children's Services. With all this pressure, I don't have the time to properly treat my heart condition.
Life has turned upside down since our husbands were taken away. Our husbands are not a threat to anyone. They used to help with everything: pick up the kids from school; take them to the library, the park, McDonald's. It is so hard to raise kids as single mothers, but you have to push yourself for them. We're both terrified of people saying we are bad parents and taking our babies away. All our personal ambitions -- to get better jobs, make real careers -- are out the window while we just try to make it. Our husbands cannot help. In detention, you make one dollar a day for full-time work. Back home in the Caribbean, no one will hire a US deportee.
When our families were first torn apart, we had no idea what was happening or where to turn for help. Now we know our rights, and protect ourselves from scam attorneys and deceitful immigration officers. We want other families to protect themselves the same way we are learning to, and speak out. Silence is killing us.
Faith is helping us get through our situations. Even though our husbands have already been taken, we will not give up. And we refuse to let this happen to other families. We are dedicated to changing the laws that ruined our homes, to overcome the fear controlling every part of our lives.
Right before September 11, Republicans and Democrats pledged support for a Fix '96 campaign that would repeal the laws that are tearing apart our families. It's time to revive this effort, and to stop punishing people solely for being immigrants. Our husbands may not be citizens, but they and we remain human beings.
Barbara Facey and Carol McDonald are members of Families for Freedom, an immigrant defense network of people facing deportation. For more information, call 212-898-4121.