Deporting Americans: A Community United Against Deportations
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece entitled “Caught in the Deportation Machine …” about how deportation affects elders – both those who are detained and deported, and those who suffer trauma from losing children or grandchildren. This photo montage, “Deporting Americans,” was created in Philadelphia by 1Love Movement when the tight Cambodian American community in that city was hit by a deportation crisis. Dozens of Cambodian folks with green cards, including Chally Dang and Mout Iv, were suddenly rounded up because of old convictions. Many had been rebuilding their lives for years after making the mistakes that had originally made them deportable. Many left behind U.S. citizen children, parents, and grandparents. Entire neighborhoods were devastated. Read More
This year, the Obama administration will surpass the 2 million mark – this is, it will have deported 2 million people since 2008, more than any other administration in history. The largest numbers of people being deported are those without legal status, but many Green card holders are also among the 2 million deportees. Since 1998, over 13,000 Southeast Asians (from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) have been deported, including many Green card holders who arrived in the U.S. decades ago as refugees fleeing war and genocide. The majority of those deported are under the age of 35, but many elders also get caught in the deportation machine. Even more elders who remain in the U.S. suffer emotionally and financially when their adult children are taken away.
Despite official Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance that agents should not “expend detention resources” on those who are elderly, many immigrant elders are detained and deported. According to information gathered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, the Immigrant Defense Project, and Families for Freedom, between 2005 and 2010 the New York City ICE Field Office apprehended 1,275 noncitizens over the age of 55, and of these, at least 141 were subject to mandatory detention. Seniors struggle more than most in detention – they are more likely to be Limited English Proficient, and are more likely to suffer from health problems and dementia.
Huyen Thi Nguyen, an elderly Vietnamese woman, was detained in an immigration detention center for 16 months after serving her sentence for cash-for-food stamp fraud. She continues to fight her deportation, while suffering from mild dementia. Claudette Hubbard escaped LGBT violence in Jamaica in 1973 and became a U.S. Green card holder. She has been detained by ICE for over two years because of a 20-year-old conviction from a drug charge, even though she has fully rehabilitated and is mother and grandmother to U.S. citizens.
Claudette Hubbard with her U.S. citizen daughter and granddaughters
MY IMMIGRANT MOTHER sits silently in a room the size of a small kitchen. Earlier this year, she survived multiple failures of the heart, kidneys, and limbs over the course of six weeks. She is seventy-three, uses a wheelchair, and for the first time in her life is surrounded by white people who do not speak Spanish, in the only nearby nursing home my parents can afford. In turn, my father drives through the days confronted by three omnipresent realities: hour-long daily visits with my mother, a night shift to keep him mentally and financially afloat, and a mailbox flooded with health care bills, insurance disputes and the complexity of navigating Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. When I speak of health reform, queer rights, or racial and economic justice, he gazes at me solemnly. He survived a lifetime of racial discrimination, fought in two wars and lived through the ensuing decades with a cacophony in his psyche. At seventy-eight, nearly blind and deaf, he will hear nothing of systems and reform. More often than not, these days we sit in silence.
This silence haunts me as an advocate who works at the intersection of aging and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights. The aging and LGBTQ advocacy fields often propose policy solutions that are too narrow to address the complexity of how all marginalized people — including heterosexual people of color such as my parents, members of the LGBTQ community, and more — experience the process of aging. We need social transformations that address the intersecting forms of oppression that older people face — and that can make sense of the chaos and silence that shroud my parents. This has become especially clear to me through my work as the director of a national policy program devoted to improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ older people.
A closer look at the lives of aging LGBTQ people reveals how deeply identity politics and class politics are entangled. Here, an older protester rallies for marriage equality in Pasadena, California.
For the full essay, which originally appeared in Tikkun Magazine click here
The following is a guest post from SEARAC’s Bao Lor.
“Wake up, kids! It’s 6:30!” my grandpa said as he pulled off the blanket that covered my head. I moved around, pretending to stretch and then curling back into a ball. Through my squinted eyes, I could see that my siblings were still lying next to me. I popped my head up and looked at the alarm clock across the room. It read: 6:10. This was my daily routine growing up. I grew up with my grandparents taking care of me and my siblings since my parents were always so busy working. For as long as I can remember, my grandpa was always the one taking me and my siblings to school every morning, and picking us up every afternoon once school got out. We numbered a total of eight kids at the time who were all attending elementary, middle, and high school. My grandpa always said that once he dropped us all off at school, within an hour or so, he would have to start picking us up again. This was true given the fact that we were in almost every grade level.
Alexis Martinez (left) worried that coming out to daughter Lesley as transgender would mean giving up any relationship with her grandchildren. But she needn’t have worried.
Alexis Martinez grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side in the early 1960s. She knew she was transgender from an early age.Alexis (whose birth name is Arthur) struggled with her identity, as did her family. At 13, she came out as transgender to her mother. Alexis’ mother called the police, who laughed and told her, “You’ve got a fag for a son, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
As a result, Alexis joined a gang and “went as macho as [she] could be, to mask what [she] really was underneath.”
Alexis has a daughter, who accepts her for who she is. Says her daughter Lesley: “You don’t have to apologize. You don’t have to tiptoe. We’re not going to cut you off. And that is something that I’ve always wanted you to, you know, just know—that you’re loved.” Read More
We are thrilled that this day has finally come. As we previously promised, in addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we will have exciting guest bloggers. We will also display our content in a variety of different ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.) And much more! Have a suggestion? Contact us.
The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was founded in 2010, and in July 2012 we launched our official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting the growing yet vulnerable demographic of elders who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).In the last eight months, we have put out numerous posts on the issues that affect our communities and the creative ideas and best practices to address them. In the summer of 2012, we also released Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, a resource that describes the issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders, who together will represent a majority of older adults in the United States by 2050.
In this time, we have received some wonderful comments on our work, as well as helpful feedback from our readers (all of you) on how to improve the site to better meet your needs—and we listened to you. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition came together and crafted an exciting plan for moving forward by implementing many of your ideas, which you’ll see starting with our blog re-launch on March 18. Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:
In addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we have some exciting guest bloggers scheduled!
Content displayed in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.)
More news and original content from coalition members
As we look forward to March 18, please like us (and tell a friend!) on Facebook to stay updated on the events surrounding the launch and the latest news affecting diverse elders. If you have any questions about DEC or would like to submit an idea for a blog post, please contact us.
SEARAC provides technical assistance to a number of Burmese and Bhutanese community organizations in the US to build strong, local ethnic community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. For this blog post, we interviewed Chum Awi, a key leader and elder in the Chin community, an ethnic minority from Burma. Chum is based out of Lewisville, Texas and works with the Chin Community of Lewisville. Read More
BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)
In anticipation of Grandparents Day, which is September 9, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center is celebrating elders through our “Grandparent Wisdom Project.” In recognition of the wonderful contribution of grandparents—and all elders—to our families and communities, we are asking individuals to submit photos of important elders in their lives and share with us what their elders have taught them.
Earlier this summer, I participated in the National Academy of Social Insurance’s seminar for young people, “Demystfying Social Security.” It was a great experience to engage with summer interns and learn from other young people on the Social Security program, and it’s reaffirmed my deep appreciation for Social Security as a key tenet of the our social safety net.
Social Security is so often thought of as a program for the elderly and those who are retired. But as a young person who hopes to be able to retire one day, I am struck by the broad impact of the program to reach nearly every American at every age, every income level, able-bodied as well as differently-abled. More than 6.5 million American children receive family income from Social Security. Specifically, more than 1 million children are kept out of poverty from Social Security benefits. And, unfortunately, a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching the normal retirement age, making Social Security Disability Income an important asset.
Much of the negative press around Social Security has accused the program of running out of money, paying out poor returns, and being an overall poor investment. In actuality, Social Security is incredibly stable. Social Security is fully financed until 2033, and even if Congress takes no action, Social Security will still be able to pay about 85% of obligations until 2086. If the future still seems uncertain, refer to Social Security’s track record: it has never missed a payment since its inception in 1935, and has consistently paid out benefits on time and in full. Social Security has outlasted wartime turmoil, Wall Street booms and busts, and political fluctuations. But most importantly, Social Security is insurance that has been there to support individual Americans through our personal life events.
The Diverse Elders Coalition came together in 2010 to imagine policy solutions that would improve the lives of elders of color and LGBT elders. Already, we have seen some advocacy wins and this summer we released a historic report on the economic security issues facing our communities.
Now we’re trying to grow our visibility and build a national online movement for diverse elders. Watch the video below and help us spread the word!
BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)
My grandmother helped raised almost all of the grandchildren in our family at some point or another. My grandmother had nine children and because my family came to the United States as refugees, most of our parents had to work multiple jobs. My parents, aunts, and uncles were grateful to have her support. At the federal level, we separate the issues of elders from the rest of the population in policy discussions. Sometimes, those issues are even pitted against each other, and we are made to think that providing for elders means that there is less for young people. On the ground in communities, however, the lives and well-being of elders are closely intertwined to the well-being of communities and families. Like my grandmother, elders support families in economic, emotional, and spiritual ways. And yet, their contributions are often overlooked and unappreciated. Southeast Asian American elders, have become invisible to the mainstream.
As they age, many Southeast Asian American elders (who arrived as refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) face numerous barriers and challenges to attaining long term care. As a community, over 90% of Southeast Asian Americans 65 and older in California live in family households, as opposed to institutional alternatives. There are limited services that allow elders to remain in their own homes, and there are even fewer opportunities for culturally and linguistically-specific services that would support the independence and living choices of elders. SEARAC works toward ensuring that there is adequate and stable funding and resources for programs that support elders who choose to maintain independent lifestyles in their homes and their communities and to ensure that provisions of the Affordable Care Act preserve and improve existing community-based and in-home care programs. Additionally, SEARAC works to ensure that aging policies address language access provisions and culturally specific needs of elders so that English language learners have access to vital information and resources.