Atlantic’s Deportation Sob Stories Ignore Personal Responsibility

March 26th, 2017 12:23 AM

A March 22 article published on The Atlantic described illegal aliens’ trepidation about potential deportation and the related angst they and their families experience. Despite the liberal tenor of the article, this stressful situation is the consequence of illegal aliens’ decision to violate the law. 

Writer Sarah Elizabeth Richards described the contingency plan for Natividad Gonzalez’s two daughters if Gonzales and her husband are deported. The article then stated:  

“These are things that an 11-year-old shouldn’t have to be thinking about,” says Gonzalez, age 32, who came to Clanton, Alabama with her husband nearly 13 years ago, and is still undocumented.

Richards noted the 11-year-old daughter’s fear that Gonzalez could be deported. While the child’s anxieties are lamentable, the article does not discuss the fact that Gonzalez and her husband created this situation by breaking the law.

Illegal immigrants (children excepted) are not the innocent victims of outside forces. The fears and problems associated with potential deportation are the consequence of a willful violation of the law—they are also the consequence of the government’s failure to secure America’s borders and promptly repatriate those who attempt illegal entry or who overstay legal entry.

A Mexican woman who has been “living in Phoenix since 2004” expressed her fear of separation from her four children (including a 13 and 14 year old) and her grandchildren:

Graciela is also devastated by the idea of leaving her older children behind. “I can’t imagine not seeing my grandkids grow up,” she says. “Since Trump became president, I’m so depressed. I’m eating out of control, and I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. I have bags under my eyes. It’s really starting to wear on me.”

While Richards willfully left this out, individuals who violate the law bear personal responsibility for the impact of potential (or actual) deportation.

Discussing Cristian Avila (“a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant who arrived in Phoenix from Mexico at age nine”) and his family, Richards stated:

Yet his mother doesn’t have a license, and he and his siblings are terrified she’ll get pulled over while making her daily 30 to 45-minute trip to the affluent suburbs, where she works.

During the day, Avila’s mind often wanders. He visualizes agents putting handcuffs on his 52-year-old mother and walking her through the booking process. He imagines her sitting behind bars. He thinks about her arriving by bus to the village an hour south of Mexico City that she left 17 years ago. He wonders how the family would send her money and clothes or how many years would pass before he would be able to see her again, since he’s not allowed to travel outside the U.S. “My mom doesn’t deal well with stress. Her side of the family has a history of heart problems,” he says. “I worry that her body wouldn’t be physically able to handle this kind of emotional rollercoaster. What if she has a heart attack in Mexico? What am I going to do?”

This represented another horrible situation created by someone’s unlawful actions—deportation would not currently be an issue if Avila’s mother had obeyed U.S. law.

The article discussed the negative consequences deportation-related stress can have on children’s lives and health:

The harms of deportation on families have been well-documented. Sometimes bread-winners are sent away or children witness their parents getting arrested, which often happens at home in the early morning. But less attention has been paid to the trauma of living with the constant duress of the potential of a family member getting deported. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement warning about how constant exposure to serious stress—called “toxic stress” — can hurt children’s short- and long-term health and even hurt their developing brains.

Not surprisingly, such threats are particularly damaging to a community that’s vulnerable to begin with, explains the psychologist Kalina Brabeck, an associate professor at Rhode Island College who’s studied the effects of deportation on children. Such risk factors include: language barriers, poverty, discrimination, lack of social support or medical care, and working long hours for low pay under harsh conditions. Yet even kids who were born in the U.S. suffer emotionally and socially if their parents are undocumented. In a pair of recent studies of 180 families with parents who immigrated from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Central America, Brabeck found that children ages 7 to 10 whose parents didn’t have residency did worse in school and experienced more anxiety than those whose parents had legal status.

The article concluded:

Even though Natividad Gonzalez’s daughters were born in Alabama and are U.S. citizens, they can’t escape the fallout from the political climate. Soon after the election, their classmates asked them, “When are you going back to Mexico?” Gonzalez says she tries to put on a brave face when she drops them off at school, saying: “Today will be a great day. I want you to learn a lot. When you get home, we will play together or maybe we’ll go shopping.”

But as soon as she drives away, the familiar anxiety grips her. “I worry that at any time the cops could detain me,” she says. “I feel uncertain all the time because it seems as if every day there’s more bad news against our community. We are at greater risk of having our families broken apart, and we haven’t even committed a crime.”

But even if they do not commit other crimes, illegal immigrants already committed a crime when they entered the United States. 

While Richards appeared to discuss individuals who illegally crossed the U.S. border, the ambiguity of some of the language does not clearly define whether the individuals illegally crossed the border or over-stayed legal entry. Notice the language utilized: Graciela has been “living in phoenix since 2004;” Avila “arrived in Phoenix from Mexico at age nine;” and when the article spoke about Avila and his mother, it said: “He thinks about her arriving by bus to the village an hour south of Mexico City that she left 17 years ago.”

But a statement in the third paragraph seems to indicate that the article deals with individuals who illegally crossed the border: “The initial shock over President Trump’s executive orders that expand the criteria under which immigrants who entered the country illegally can be deported has given way to chronic unease.”

While the term “immigrants who entered the country illegally” and “unauthorized immigrants” each appear once, she frequently referred to “immigrants” and “undocumented immigrants.” The phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” never appear in the article.

Tweets posted by Richards reveal her liberal worldview. In January 2017, she indicated that she donated $35.00 to the ACLU by tweeting a screenshot of a donation receipt in response to a tweet by Chris Sacca that said, “The @aclu took Trump to court. Let's stand with them. Reply w/ donation receipts from today & I'll match to $25k.”

And a March 2016 tweet with the link to one of her articles said: “Pleased to tell the story of a lovely Ohio woman and her decision to place her baby with two gay dads.”