No real winner

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By Ashourina Slewo

Five months ago, when I wrote “The human side of deportation”, I didn’t think I would ever see my father in the flesh again. I was doing everything in my power to bring him home, but I had also mentally prepared myself to deal with a situation in which I could not save my father.

That changed when Judge Mark Goldsmith made the decision to grant bond hearings. The threat of deportation was and continues to be very real, but this ruling meant my father could potentially fight his immigration case from home.

I anxiously waited for a date, being as impatient as I am, though, I hounded the Cleveland Immigration Court. With much reluctance from the court, I was given the date of my father’s bond hearing. 

On January 26 my father went before Judge David Whipple.

Whipple went back and forth in his decision until he ultimately decided that because of my father’s ties to the community and immense amount of family support, he would grant my father bond. He was granted bond, but at the steep price of $15,000.

I cried like a child. I could breathe. Even if for just a sliver of a moment, I could finally breathe. 

The moment passed in an instant, though and it was back to business.

I was somewhere between relieved and angry. Relieved because things could have been a lot worse; he could have been denied bond completely. Angry because I didn’t have $15,000 or anything close to being worth $15,000. 

The Monday after my father was granted bond, my sister and I hounded credit unions and loan companies. Guess how many of them were jumping out of their seats to loan us $15,000. None. Collateral wasn’t an option because, really, how many 20-somethings actually own a home or property? 

We had hit another wall. He received bond, our hopes and prayers were answered, but it still was not enough to alleviate the pressure that had been mounting for almost eight months. 

In writing, it doesn’t seem like much, the struggle, but to be jumping through hoops to save my dad’s life only to have every door shut in my face had me ready to give up. Every day I had to convince my dad that I would find a way to cover bond, but the words were hollow and void of any confidence. 

In a last attempt at getting bond together, I created a GoFundMe. I dreaded doing this as it meant I was officially begging for help. As predicted, though, the fundraiser did not take off and I realized that even my last effort was not good enough.

I found myself begging everybody and their mother to share my GoFundMe in the hopes that it would find kind hearts and sympathetic souls. No such luck. On the bright side, I got a lot of thoughts and prayers.

It wasn’t until a week after I started a GoFundMe that a family friend told me about a radio show popular in the Chaldean community. A few days later, I sat in front of a microphone across from a man who didn’t know me or my family but wanted to help us anyway. It was through this show that I was able to raise more than $7,000.

People in the community were coming out of nowhere to donate and help my family. I was at a loss for words. Many people even refused to donate to the GoFundMe account, opting to meet me in person, because they wanted to ensure every cent went to bringing my father home and not the fundraising service.

Some even invited me into their homes, commending me for everything I had done and continued to do for my father. I was seeing a news side of my community. In equal parts, and almost simultaneously, I was feeling pride at the immense coming together of my community and disdain for the cards I had been dealt.

One loan and countless donations later, I had the money I needed to post bond, with a dollar to spare. After nearly a month and a half of debasing myself to get $15,000, I walked into immigration where they took the check faster than I could say “God bless America”. 

Everything after that is a blur. One moment I’m posting bond, the next I’m at a shady bus station in the armpit of the United States hugging my father and wondering if he had always been this short.

It doesn’t end here, though. We still have a long way to go and we’re far from being able to say we won. This experience is just another facet of the fight.