By Ashourina Slewo
There are few moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life and watching my father get zip tied and tossed into a car by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents is at the top of my list. There’s nothing quite like hearing my father, a man who has seen many horrors in his 51 years of life, cry out to me, begging me to not forget him.
Since June 11, the politics of the ICE sweeps have run rampant. The phrase “the law is the law” is thrown around as if it were the answer to everything. Oddly enough, I like the intricacy of politics, but the mass detainment of more than 100 Iraqis has been enough to make me nauseous at the black and white thought processes of some. These detainees have committed crimes, but they have also served their time accordingly.
I want to share the human side of these potential deportations. We’ve heard all the politics and immigration jargon, it’s now time to see the detainees and their families as humans.
My mother and father ran away from Iraq after they married in 1992 and for almost eight months, stayed in a Turkish refugee camp where they waited to finally be allowed entry to the United States. In June of 1993, my parents entered the U.S. legally and became permanent residents. With their first child born exactly six months later, my father knew that going to school was not a reality for him or my mother. They worked and supported what would eventually become a family of six. As a result, obtaining his citizenship found a permanent residency at the bottom of his list of things to worry about.
My parents shed their former life like a second skin in that Turkish refugee camp. They were proud Americans and nothing would change that. They still rooted for Iraq’s soccer team and wistfully spoke of the shawarma sandwiches bought on street corners, but they never once felt the pull to return to a land destroyed by endless terror.
Since my father was picked up, I find myself overwhelmed by my responsibilities, his responsibilities and the responsibility to save his life. I work to pay my bills, my mother’s bills, his bills, and the added financial burden of having a father facing deportation. I would have never thought that speaking to my father on the phone or paying for food would become such a financial burden.
Since June 11, my mom, sister and I have gone without, so that we could ensure my father and brothers didn’t have to worry about food, shelter, etc. The financial burden is almost worse than the thought that my father, a father, brother, uncle and U.S. Army veteran, will be sent back to a war zone where he will face persecution. It’s ironic, really, to think that immigrants can voluntarily enlist to fight for this country, but cannot become citizens of this country for the mere fact that they are enlisting.
As the child of immigrants, I have always had more responsibilities than other people my age; I came to terms with that long ago when I was calling DTE Energy about an issue with our bill at the ripe age of 8. Never in my life, however, did I think I would be fighting tooth and nail to save my father’s life. I would take filling out papers and translating over this fight any day.
Countless organizations have helped me in the fight, from CODE Legal Aid to the Chaldean Community Foundation, and I don’t know what I have done in my life to come across these amazing people, but I am thankful. At the end of the night, though, when I’m left with just my thoughts, I think of the odds. I think of the exuberant man that is sitting in Northeast Ohio Correctional Facility and how he has fought to become a better person. The man that was so proud to be an American, he enlisted in the armed forces even with the nightmares he still experienced from his time in the Republican Guard.
I think of how I don’t want to fail him. He has so much faith in me and my abilities, but with each day that I don’t have good news to give him, I find myself panicking at the thought of letting him and my family down.
It’s been on a constant loop and it’s a fact we can’t escape, these detainees have previously committed crimes and have received final orders of deportation. However, what is not so prominently stated is that these detainees have served their time and have made the necessary changes to once again become productive members of the community. They’re not running around committing crimes; it’s hard to commit crimes when you regularly check in with ICE. There is no value in this prolonged detainment and certainly not in deporting these men and women.