Apr 22 2008
the entire program
GUEST: Maria, immigrant mother facing deportation, Xiomara Corpeno (CHIRLA), Spanish-English translator
This February 7th, a woman named Maria was one of 138 immigrant workers detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a raid at Global Micro Solutions in Torrance. Maria was immediately put into deportation proceedings despite having lived and worked in the US for over 15 years. Her daughter, a US citizen was our guest on yesterday’s program. Jessica Salcedo explained to us during the live interview yesterday how she felt watching her mother being detained and how that has affected her and her family. After that interview, Jessica’s mother Maria agreed to speak with us on the record in a taped interview and describe her experience first hand.
Sonali Kolhatkar: We heard from your daughter, but now, if you can tell us what happened to you.
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): I was working at 3:40, it was February 7th, and I saw a coworker come up to the supervisor and he sort of signaled to his chest, sort of quietly, saying that there was somebody here, so I went and I told the coworker, and when I returned to my station an ICE agent told us to get in formation and to get into 2 lines and quickly. I got my bag and we were taken to the dining room where they asked us for our name and where we were from. Before that, they asked citizens to form one line, legal permanent residents to form another, and asylum and people with work permits to form a third line, so the people left over who had nothing, we just stayed sitting.
Sonali Kolhatkar: At this point, what did you think was going to happen to you and did you realize that you could be deported?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): Yes, at that moment, I thought they were going to come and take us back to our home countries right away and I was really so sad, and at that point I called my husband, I hid so that I can use my cell phone and call him, and told him that immigration came, and he told me to sign the voluntary departure, and I said no, I’m not going to sign anything. And then the saddest point came when I had a bill in my purse that I had to pay that day, and I gave all my things to a coworker and told her to give them to my daughter. And then my daughter called at 5pm and asked me why hadn’t I picked her up. And I told her “Oh, I’m still here, I’m still working,” and my daughter insisted “No, tell me what happened,” and, you know, I just kept saying “Nothing,” “When are you going to come” and I said “I’m going to come soon,” but then I just couldn’t hold back anymore and I told her that immigration had come and I told her not to worry and that was the hardest part for me at that point.
Sonali Kolhatkar: So then what happened?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): So they had us sitting around for a while, while they were processing us, they put on a blue bracelet with our name and a number on it, on each of us, the agents told us that we need to calm down, that before 11pm, they would have us back at the factory, that we would be able to be with our children, that we shouldn’t cry and that everything would be ok, and we didn’t believe them. We didn’t think that at any moment we were going to be free. Around 6pm, an agent told me that my daughter was waiting for me outside and I did see her. I saw her watching me, and, you know, know how hard this is for me to have seen her out there just watching everything happen.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Did you feel like you were being treated like a criminal?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): In a way yes, we weren’t allowed to do anything or move, and even to go to the bathroom, they had to go with us.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Why do you think this happened to you and what are you going to do next?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): I really don’t know why this happened to us, and what we need to do next, you know, just going to keep raising our voice and educating others who are in the same situation so they don’t have to go through what we went through.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Why did you come to the United States and what has your life been like since you came?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): Why did I come here? I came with my daughter’s father. And my life here was good, you know, up to that day, everything was fine. I felt like I was making something of my family and myself, I could help my family back home, that I had everything. And when these things happen, you feel like your life changes so drastically, and it has been a 360 change for us.
Sonali Kolhatkar: How do you respond to the current American mainstream sentiment that, if you came here without papers, you don’t have a right to be in this country? What do you say to those people?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): I guess I would say that everybody, you know, makes mistakes, but we should have the opportunity to work here. We contribute to the country, we pay taxes, and we have the right to be here. And we also have the right not to be discriminated against.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Did you think this would ever happen to you in the United States? Did you ever imagine that in the United States, which emphasizes the notion of freedom, that you would be rounded up and sent back home in this fashion?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): To be honest, no, I never thought that this was going to be happening to me. I would see reports about this happening to other people, but I never thought I would be one of them.
Sonali Kolhatkar: What has the effect of this been on your family and yourself, psychologically and emotionally?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): The effect that it has had on me is that I am very depressed, my family back home is also affected. They are sick and they are worried. I don’t call them, I need to tell them how I am feeling. And psychologically, emotionally, I’m just feeling really depressed.
Sonali Kolhatkar: And in general, in your family life, is this something that you think your family is going to be able to cope with? I mean, how does one keep a family together under such circumstances?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): It’s going to take a long time, I think, to recover for us. We can’t work and we have all these bills to pay, we can’t send help back to our families and we don’t know how long it is going to take to actually resolve this issue.
Sonali Kolhatkar: What do you expect Americans of conscience to do about this? What support and solidarity should people be offering to yourself and others like you?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): I would say that, you know, for Americans, they have the power of the vote and to support us through voting, and for pushing for an immigration reform so that we can remain here and continue to contribute to this country.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Do you have any last thoughts for our listeners before we end this interview?
Maria (from Spanish by Xiomara Corpeno): I would ask that people support us, and all we are asking for is the right to work, and that they support us in this struggle so that we can remain with our children and continue taking care of our children.
Sonali Kolhatkar: I want to thank you very much for joining us, thank you for your courage and speaking out and I wish you the best of luck in your case.
Special Thanks to Claudia Greyeyes for transcribing this interview
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