Remember Us, Daniel: How One ICE Detainee Rose Above

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Before you read any further, I want to tell you today's blog post is about a boy's story. Wrapped up in his story is a mire of senseless U.S. immigration law that desperately needs to change. If you don't think you'll like what you hear, feel free to stop reading now.

But if you want to hear it, please read this story by The Associated Press.

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If you didn't have time to read it, here is the basic gist of it ... my version ... all the facts credited to the AP reporter.

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Daniel Guadron was an 18-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who came to the U.S., specifically Trenton, New Jersey, with his family when he was 13. During the first few months he was here, he amazed teachers, relatives and friends by mastering the English language and excelling in all of his studies and extracurricular involvements. It was obvious this young man, well-loved and admired by all, was on his way to someplace great.

In April 2008, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency broke into his home, demanding he reveal the whereabouts of his mother. He would not, and so they cuffed him, stuffed him in a van and carted him off to a warehouse near Newark, N.J. -- a place used to detain illegal immigrants.

For seven months, Daniel waited. He waited to find out why he was there. He waited to hear from his family's lawyer. He waited with 300 other immigrants also uncertain of their fates. It wasn't as if he had done something wrong. He had his papers together -- even had a Social Security number. But his parents had missed a court appointment somewhere along the line, and now he was paying for it.

After a time of despair, Daniel decided not to waste his time. He would strengthen mind and body while he waited for justice. He worked out. He read. He practiced his languages. He prayed. He wouldn't let this beat him. And he didn't.

Finally the day came for his release. The lawyer had managed to finagle a re-opening of the case, and Daniel was free to go before the family's final fate was decided.

Before he left the detention center, his fellow detainees, many of them now his friends, looked at him through African, Indian and Chinese eyes -- eyes full of fear and uncertainty -- and said, "Remember us, Daniel!"

For which of them knew how long they would stay?

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When I read this story while editing at work the other day, my eyes welled over with tears of anger and sorrow. I am willing to admit I don't fully know the inner workings of U.S. immigration law, nor the philosophies from which it stems.

But I know injustice when I see it. I know Daniel Guadron and his family are no different than the ancestors of each one of us (including the ICE officers and the immigration court judges), who, several generations back perhaps, came to the U.S. just like the Guadrons, looking for freedom and opportunity.

The difference, I guess, is the generation in which the Guadrons arrived. Has America has changed her mind and lost her sense of hospitality? Is it time for the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty to be effaced and replaced with "No Longer Applicable"?

My prayer is that before we lash out in hostility against immigrants, whether Hispanic, Asian or African, we will stop and remember our own ancestors who were more than likely in the same place. When did fear begin to trump compassion? How would you feel if that kind of malice were aimed toward you?

We need to remember Daniel. Just like the biblical story of Joseph, Daniel took the wrongs levied against him and responded not in anger, but in humility and patience. He didn't deserve what happened to him, but he took his situation for what it was, and waited for an answer. His response puts us to shame.


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2 comments:

Pam Elmore said...

Thank you so much for this, Rachel. I appreciate your thoughtful and compassionate response to this story, and for bringing it to my attention.

Rachel Watson said...

Thanks, Pam. That means a lot. Do you still want to write about Ann Coulters? I'd like to read that post if/when it comes. :)