I’ll take more taxes and my friend’s dignity back


The arrest of hundreds of Chaldeans by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the last 18 months is well known and has been well documented in these pages. But it is important that we remember, on an individual basis, the human cost of what was done.

A friend of mine was one of those picked up by ICE just before Christmas last year. He ended up
spending six months in Calhoun County Jail before being released in June. The crime he committed happened more than 35 years ago. He’s now in his 60’s.

During his confinement, I visited him twice. Both times he cried when I came and cried when I left. He looked distraught. He was confined to a 10 ft. by 12 ft. cell with another inmate for 18 hours a day. When he couldn’t breathe late  at night, they would give him a nebulizer as if he had asthma. One guard, if she was on duty, would let him walk around to calm his anxiety. There were nightmares.

Yes, he’s out now, thanks to a ruling by a federal judge – which the Trump Justice Department is appealing. Yes, he’s back with his wife and he’s back to work, though his dog died while he was away.

But the nightmares and anxiety continue. He wakes up in a panic at the thought of those in jail he became close to that are still there under the threat of deportation. He dwells on the young Mexican mom that used to walk around mumbling about her kids. In her mid-20’s, she looked 50, he told me. There was the Chaldean guy in a wheelchair. My friend is sure he’ll die in prison.

I’ve invited him over the house five or six times for rice and curry. That’s what he was craving when he came out. He called the other day to apologize for being distant. He’s not himself, he said. He’s having trouble sleeping and wants to be by himself all the time. He goes to work but says he’s in a daze. His appetite is gone.

He asked me if I knew a psychiatrist. I suggested he start with a psychologist. He still wants to come over for rice and curry, but he needs some time. The scotch we would talk about having together when he came out, that’s not going to happen. Having a drink with a friend is something to do for fun and to celebrate. Life is no fun for him anymore.

I reminded him on a visit to jail, that he was a Trump supporter. His wife voted for him with his blessing. He is not a citizen so he can’t vote. She won’t be voting for Trump next time around, that’s for sure.

When my friends and colleagues extol the virtues of Trump, we hear about the tax cut, about the low unemployment rate, about Neil Gorsuch being on the Supreme Court.

I’m good with all those things. But I would gladly trade all of them for my friend’s dignity and happiness. They were stolen from him by the American government. I hold Trump personally responsible.

When I go to the polls in two years, I won’t be thinking about my marginal tax rate. I’ll be thinking
about my friend.

Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of
the Chaldean News.