Village Voice 05.10.2017 : Page 6
6 May 10 -May 16, 2017 longer doing her homework and had be-gun making macabre drawings of dead people. Tracy worked thirteen hours a day but couldn’t afford their monthly expenses. Ji Ming, the oldest son, grew evasive and started smoking marijuana. Every week at Bergen, a fight or men-tal breakdown sent someone into solitary confinement. Tracy sent Tony tai chi in-structions to calm his nerves, and they spoke on the phone daily. Jones filed peti-tions for a bond hearing for Tony, but a judge denied them. So Jones filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court. (Few detainees can afford an attorney with the time and resources to do this, though the U.S. government argues that establishing a right to a bond hearing in six months is excessive, because detain-ees can access their right to due process through habeas corpus.) On April 6, 2016, Tony was released on bond. ony’s deportation hearing is sched-uled for January 2018. Were it not for a free attorney from NYIFUP, Tony might be waiting in Bergen until then. Mayor de Blasio has proposed limiting NYIFUP, saying the city should no longer provide free counsel to detain-ees convicted of a list of 170 offenses ranging from murder to minor burglary. In some ways, Tony was lucky, and the fragility of his status shadows his daily life. “It feels like the whole family is still paying for a conviction that Tony repaid to society years ago,” Tracy said. Their son Ji Ming, now a high school senior, joined the Army. “This family will have one less mouth to feed,” he explained, and the Army will pay college tuition that his parents can’t afford. Old business partners offered Tony the chance to open a restaurant, but he worries about getting deported after making an investment. “It’s like a time bomb,” he says, “and you don’t know when it will go off.” And the situation only became more volatile after January 25, when Trump outlined plans to redefine priorities for deportation. There are an estimated T The Chens at home in Brooklyn: Ji Ming, Tracy, Tony, Kathine, and Kelly 42,000 immigrants in detention now, and a study by the Los Angeles Times esti-mated that if authorities were to follow Trump’s new criteria, 8 million immi-grants would become a priority for deportation. If the Supreme Court rules against Jennings , many will languish in detention centers without due process. On a Sunday when Tony was at a restaurant job, Tracy, the kids, and her parents gathered in their living room to stuff shrimp and pork dumplings. Tracy’s mother murmured approvingly as her granddaughters folded dough. The family began to discuss the topic that’s usually too painful to broach: what they would do if Tony were deported. “Let’s say your father goes back to his country of origin,” Ji Ming said, “and you only see him on a computer screen — that’s going to kill you, right?” Tracy stroked her daughters’ hair and glanced at her mother, who had spent decades trying to leave the country that Tony might be sent back to. “Technology is awesome, but it’s not real ,” she worried. “You can’t hug, you can’t kiss.” When Tony was first in detention, the children imagined joining him in China if he were deported. But Tracy said it was impossible. “We can’t go back. You don’t read Chinese, and you can hardly speak it.” Neither daughter has Chinese citizen-ship; they would be foreigners there, without access to government services or publicly funded schools. “No,” Tracy said. “We’ll stay here. We’ll fight to keep our family together.” She gestured around the table. “We’re all citizens here.” VILLAGE VOICE.com DEPORTATION BY DETENTION from p5 lawyer, says: “Most people would be shocked to know that we have a prison system in America where the government can lock you up without the right to see a judge who can determine whether you should be locked up in the first place.” As studies by the ACLU have found, the majority of detainees given a bond hearing are deemed not to pose a flight risk and are allowed to leave detention. Many ultimately win their claim to re-main in the U.S., which supports the ACLU’s argument that denial of bond hearings disproportionately affects im-migrants, like Tony, with strong cases. New York’s immigration court backlog is infamous. It can take years to resolve an immigration case, even longer when a case is appealed. Without the possibility of a bond hearing, more immigrants will stay locked up during this process. Jones, Tony’s lawyer, works on dozens of these cases. She was struck by Tony’s sweet-ness and his family’s desperation. “His case epitomizes the immigration sys-tem’s tendency to punish someone indef-initely for something he’s already paid for....What possible purpose does it serve to detain him while we litigate? It’s puni-tive, and it’s destructive to his family.” or Tony, punishment took many forms. Detainees kept their belong-ings on rugs they constructed from plastic bags and ate each meal seated on their beds. Breakfast consisted of dry cereal, pancakes, and a choice of soda or coffee. Rice came once a week; chicken every two weeks. Detainees protested with a hunger strike, but guards said they had no control over the food. Tony lost thirty pounds. For a dollar a day, Tony started clean-ing toilets and floors. A buck twenty-five bought a cup of instant noodles, which could be traded for a haircut; three bought a chicken wing from another detainee’s dinner. With two AA batteries, Tony got an extra blanket. Tracy started working three jobs, one in a daycare center with kids from single-parent homes. “Most of them are bro-ken,” she says, “and the children really suffer.” Now she was a single parent her-self, and the fractures she had witnessed in her clients’ lives began showing up in her own. The teacher of her eleven-year-old daughter, Kelly, called to say Kelly was no F SPOT-ILLUSTRATIONS BY TED MCKEEVER Kathine drew pictures of the family and sent them to her father during his eight months in detention.