A citizen without citizenship

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A few days ago, I read of a real-time tragedy when a family was wrenched apart without much feeling for the consequences. A Michigan man of Mexican descent was deported last week from Detroit in the US to Mexico, a move that many of his supporters say was another example of immigrants being unfairly targeted under the Trump administration.

After 30 years of living in the US and working as a reliable and trustworthy landscaper, the 39-year-old Jorge Garcia’s eyes were streaming with tears as his wife cried out uncontrollably while his 15-year-old daughter sobbed into her father’s shoulder as they hugged for one last time near the entrance to the airport security gate at Detroit Metro Airport. Two US immigration agents kept a close watch nearby to ensure he wouldn’t flee. Garcia plodded heavily through security as supporters around him held up signs that read, “Stop Separating Families.”

Prior to his forced departure, Garcia told reporters: “I feel kind of sad. I got to leave my family behind, knowing that they’re probably going to have a hard time adjusting. Me not being there for them for who knows how long. It’s just hard.”

Especially painful will be the separation from his children, Soleil and Jorge Garcia Jr. The Garcias said their 12-year-old son has been taking the news hard, not expressing himself, which is concerning his parents. His wife said that their son and daughter are devastated. “It’s a nightmare, they’re sad, they’re depressed, they don’t really comprehend everything that’s going on, all they know is their dad is gone and they don’t know when they’re going to see him again.”

Garcia added: “It’s going to be kind of hard for me to adjust, too. Not being there with them, helping the kids with school stuff. It’s going to be kind of hard. But it’s something, I guess I got to find a way to adjust.”

Jorge Garcia came to the US with an undocumented family member when he was nine years old. Today he has a wife and two children, all of whom are US citizens. He’s been trying for years to find a path to live legally in the US, with he and his wife spending all their money on legal fees. Garcia was ordered in November to return to Mexico. He has no criminal record, not even a traffic ticket and has dutifully paid his taxes every year.

Reading his story was painful and kept me up late into the night. What has happened to humanity? A man who has obviously shown all traits of a good citizen and who has demonstrated that diligently for 30 years was made to pay the price for being on the wrong side of a passport!

A day later, an email sent to me highlighted a situation not much different to the Michigan case in many aspects. It was written by someone called Abdo and it goes like this:

“I’ve read an article you’ve written in Saudi Gazette titled ‘What will we do when the expats leave?’ about 155 days ago.

“It’s terribly sad to watch the way non-Saudis are being treated. And as a ‘non-Saudi’ who was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, studied and lived here my entire life and call this place home, I must say it hurts.

“In your column you said: ‘we will have a less colorful society’. You are absolutely right, sir, in my humble opinion. It’s sad to see Europeans opening their arms for immigrants, regardless of the purpose behind this gesture. It’s not a secret to anyone that these are difficult times for the Kingdom, but I just wish that more friendliness was being shown to expats.

“I pray that Allah guides us to do what’s right and righteous for everyone. Saudis are affected, too, of course. In the end we all want the same thing, for us to live here and to be able to enjoy a chicken kabsa with some peace of mind. My apologies for such a bleak and depressing email – Abdo.”

Abdo, it is I who should offer you apologies for some of the unsettling questions that may surely be raging through your mind about your future. With no emotional connection to a homeland of your forefathers, I cannot imagine how difficult a transition it will be if you have to return one day. You are indeed a citizen without citizenship.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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