Last year, a woman named Maria Bolanos called the police during a domestic dispute with her partner, hoping that they would protect her. Now, as a result of that phone call and the subsequent interaction with police, because she is an immigrant who is undocumented, it is probable that she will be deported soon.
Last Christmas Eve, Maria Bolanos made a decision she would later regret: During a fight with her partner, she called the Prince George’s County police and sought their protection.
The call for help had disastrous consequences for Bolanos, a 28-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador. Within months, she found herself ensnared in an increasingly controversial immigration enforcement program designed to deport undocumented criminals.
Bolanos now faces deportation and possible separation from her 21-month-old daughter, who was born here and is a U.S. citizen.
Her case illustrates what immigrant-rights advocates and some local officials consider the shortcomings of Secure Communities, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts and a program that has helped generate a record number of deportations.
Secure Communities, which already operates in the District, Maryland, Virginia and will soon be running nationwide, relies on the fingerprints collected by local authorities when a person is charged with anything from a traffic violation to murder.
In Bolanos’s case, the officer who responded to the domestic dispute at her apartment in Hyattsville later charged her with illegally selling a $10 phone card to a neighbor – an allegation she denies. The charge was eventually dropped, but by then Bolanos had been been fingerprinted and found by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be in the country illegally.
She has been told she probably will be deported after a Wednesday hearing before an immigration judge in Baltimore.
First of all, fuck the police officer who charged Bolanos. A woman being abused calls for help from the authorities, expects them to protect her, and is instead charged with illegally selling a $10 phone card. A $10 phone card. Fuck that. It is the height of irresponsibility, misogyny, racism, pick an -ism. It’s so repulsive it makes the bile rise up in my throat.
Fuck that officer, and fuck the Obama administration with its “Secure Communities” plan. “Secure Communities” apparently means broken communities, separated communities, communities missing parents and other family members, communities living in fear, communities in which women can be beaten with impunity because if they call the cops to help them, no matter how fearful for their lives they just may be, they will be severely penalized. This is what “Secure Communities” means? Fuck that.
No, I’m not sorry for either the language or the sentiments. I’m fucking pissed.
With a record number of immigrants deported in the past year — only half of whom, I should note, have criminal records, with even the overwhelming majority of those being drug convictions — immigrants are worse off under Obama than they were under Bush.
Let me repeat that, today, on election day: Immigrants are worse off under Obama than they were under Bush. On election day, when the Obama administration is touting the improvements they’ve made to the U.S.in effort to get us out there to support their fellow Democrats, “reminding” us how much worse life was under Republicans, how much worse it could be again.
To be clear, I’m not telling anyone not to vote. I’m headed out myself later on this afternoon. And the day I actually vote Republican is the day that hell freezes over. I’m simply pointing out some facts about the lies we’re being told. I think we should all know the truth, and stop taking those lies at face value.
Because immigrants are less safe and more vulnerable to being removed from their homes under Obama than they were under Bush. And the Obama administration has the gall, the audacity, the outright conceit and smugness, to brag about it.
Even for someone who labels himself progressive, people’s very lives have become a political bargaining chip.
And anyone with a single progressive bone in their entire body should be outraged at that truth. At the truth that people’s lives do not matter unless they have a certain slip of paper. That certain people just don’t deserve protection, don’t deserve to live peacefully and unmolested. That certain people just aren’t really people anymore, anyway.
We are talking about people. Real, living, breathing people with hopes and dreams and families and inner lives. I think it’s time to center that. The fact that while the Obama administration and bureaucracy has forgotten, Maria Bolanos is a person.
Maria Bolanos works two jobs to pay her bills. She does janitorial work at an apartment complex Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and pulls a 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift at a restaurant Thursday through Sunday.
“Dora the Explorer” plays endlessly on the TV in her second-floor apartment, in deference to the wishes of her daughter, Melisa Arellano-Bolanos.
Framed pictures of the the Last Supper and of Jesus and Mary hang above the dining table. A photo of Bolanos’s partner, Fernando Arellano, hugging Melisa is tucked into one corner of one of the frames.
Bolanos said she came to the United States in 2004 in search of a better life. She paid $7,000 to coyotes to help her cross the border via the Arizona desert.
The first time her party was caught, she said. She was released in the desert across the Arizona border from Mexico after being fingerprinted and photographed by authorities–and almost immediately crossed the border again.
She found her way to the Washington area and met Arellano at a restaurant where she worked. Arellano, now 34, was also undocumented and from Mexico. They fell in love and moved in together. Melisa was born in January 2008 at Washington Hospital Center.
She’s a person. A person who, because her partner allegedly assaulted her, because she allegedly sold some fucking phone cards, was shackled and detained. Shackled and detained, despite her pleas to be released on account that she was breastfeeding, until a doctor found her breasts engorged with milk.
She’s a person who would have no legal recourse if she was assaulted again. A person who has been let hung out to dry, saying, “You would have to be crazy to call the police. I would never call the police again.” A woman of color who, because of who she is, does not have the same exact right to not be beaten as a U.S.-born white lady like me.
A woman involved in a domestic dispute was so afraid of her partner that she called the police. Now, as a direct result of that phone call, she’s likely going to be deported. And though her story may be particularly outrageous, it’s not isolated. This shit is happening all the fucking time.