This post is dedicated to A, L, R, J, J, D, C, L and A: There are no words to express my gratitude for all of your support during these first few days.
Here is a picture of my hubby taken two weeks before the events described below. During the week I was in Taos he tore up an enormous stump in the backyard, taking apart the deck to get to it, then he built us this fire pit. We were looking forward to S’mores around the fire, having friends over for drinks and enjoying our beautiful yard through the rest of the summer.
Throughout the tumult of having surgery and schlepping back and forth to Mexico so the girls could see their father, I had very little time to do the kind of writing that is necessary for a blog post about this. When I wasn’t in an unbearable amount of pain, or incoherent from the drugs, I spent some time making notes and outlining all the various posts that could easily end up comprising a book, but always ended up switching back to survival mode: keeping the house and work projects from completely falling apart.
Throughout the hurricane I kept thinking what an incredible metaphor that event was for the way our life has been since Tuesday July 30, 2013. I still have some Odile posts in the works, but just found a few pictures that got me thinking about why I am here in the first place.
The week of July 29, 2013 was supposed to be as close to heaven as I a person is likely to see. My daughter was in a math camp in Bellevue all week and rather than drive back and forth, I was camped out at the Eastlake library working until it was time to pick her up. Thursday night would kick off the Seattle Erotic Art Festival where I was presenting my work.
Hubby has always been more conservative than I, but he was impressed by SEAF’s Seduction Ball and he let me sign him up for the festival.
That’s Hubby there in the back. He made such a studly headbanger in that wig.
The author whose book I was editing was presenting his photos at the festival. Since each had heard so much about the other, I was really looking forward to introducing them. I was also excited and nervous at the prospect of sitting with Hubby through the live sex photo shoot we would be attending on Saturday. My biggest worry when the week began was that Hubby would not be as enthusiastic as he seemed and would embarrass me. On Sunday I was going to read my poem “She Is,” which was featured as part of the literary art anthology. I was thrilled to be able to have him in the audience when I read.
To say I was excited is putting it mildly. I was looking forward to a week of catching up on work and visiting a few of my eastside friends for lunch. At the end of the week I would be accompanied by my beautiful husband for three days of immersion into erotic imagery as well as meeting all the exceptional people who put it into the world. This weekend was to be a serious bonding event for Hubby and I. We had a sitter lined up and he was going to be there for it all.
On Tuesday at 2:30 pm I was just finishing up lunch with an old friend. I had a bad feeling all though the meal, mainly because this friend had had some negative interactions with a former coworker who was known to frequent the place where we were eating. The food was too good to pass up, however, so we enjoyed a two hour lunch catching up while I anxiously watched the door.
I was also plagued throughout the lunch with the abdominal pain that was becoming more and more of a distraction. I had promised Hubby that after I got back from Taos I would go to the doctor.
I said goodbye to my friend in the parking lot and was just closing the door on the minivan when the phone rang from deep inside my purse. I dug it out, saw that the number was blocked and almost ignored the call. “Blocked” is not “Unknown,” however. Blocked for some reason indicated that whatever was on the other end might be important.
One of hubby’s pet peeves has always been that I ignore the phone. When I am lunching, or interacting with people in general, unless there is a pressing issue at home, I keep the phone off altogether. Today must have been our lucky day.
“They got me,” Hubby’s voice was calm but serious.
This is something we have been afraid of since we got married. Ever since we consulted our first attorney, the news stories of ICE raids and deportations had been becoming more common. While I was at Taos I took the enormous step of confiding in another writer who is active in the immigrant rights community. This was not something I generally told people about myself. I never wanted to be judged or have Hubby judged by the label that is put on people who are here without Proper Papers. Hubby to me and most who know us, is one of the biggest reasons I have been able to do as much as I have in my creative life.
My schedule and the opportunities I have been able to take advantage of have depended mostly on the fact the he makes a good enough living that I can stay home to write and edit, plus his schedule was flexible enough to allow him to take the kids so I could attend all my events.
Hubby continued, “The officer here wants to talk to you.”
It sounded like a three-way call and I could still hear Hubby breathing on the other end as this man spoke to me. He identified himself as Officer — and told me that Hubby was being held at the Tukwila Office of Homeland Security. I remembered my trips over there to file papers to try to get Hubby legalized.
While the Officer spoke, the green of the trees, the blues and reds and whites of the cars in the parking lot became richer. The sunlight was more bright and warm than ever. The grungy walls of the Taco Time across the parking lot stood in contrast.
“Where do I send our attorney?” My voice was shaking. My hands and arms were cold.
“If you are getting an attorney, you better hurry up.” Officer—’s voice held a touch of humor. “We are sending him over to Tacoma for processing in the next hour.”
“Don’t hurt him!” I blurted, aware that this might scare Hubby, but I also wanted the Officer to know that if anything happened to my husband, I would make sure he was sorry. My voice was probably much less intimidating than I was aiming for. I thought right then that I might even sound hysterical.
Officer — responded I am sure, but I cannot recall what it was he said. I do know he must have been reassuring in some way as I was able to get my next question out.
“Where can I see him?” I asked. Still trying to sound intimidating and failing. I wanted him to know that this wasn’t some peasant or criminal that he was holding. This was someone Important. He was connected to an American. I wanted him to know that I had the resources and capacity to deal with this.
The way the officer spoke to me was an introduction to the way every other government official would school me in the importance of my status as an American citizen.
“He will be processed and sent over to Tacoma. You won’t be able to see him for 24 hours.”
There was nothing left to say. The Officer spoke with such finality and I had no idea how to end the call. I might have blurted out more questions but was very aware of the panic creeping in to my voice and was desperate for some way to both process what I was hearing and respond in a way that indicated to Hubby that I had the situation under control.
I told Hubby that I loved him, hating that a stranger was on the same line.
After I hung up the phone I thought about my daughters and what I was going to tell them. I thought of the attorney I had to call, I thought of Hubby’s boss, and about my other daughter. I thought about the bank account, I thought about Hubby, I imagined him sitting against a sterile concrete wall in handcuffs. Then I pictured him in the dark.
Somewhere between getting back in the car and searching through the phone for the right numbers the pain hit again. I spent ten minutes in the bathroom at Taco Time trying to make it stop while I called my sister in law to tell her what had happened. Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that family needed to be informed.
The hour until I needed to pick my daughter up from camp was impossibly hectic. I called Don—, an older man who had worked for Immigration years ago and now worked with an immigration attorney. We had begun consulting with him in March based on a strong recommendation from one of Hubby’s friends. In June he had advised me to go to the Homeland Security Office to request Hubby’s case file so we could move toward filing the proper forms. The phone rang until I finally got a message that the mailbox was full. I called several more people to get a number for the friend who had referred him to us, hoping to get another number for the office. I cursed the backup assistant that was supposed to transfer numbers when I switched phones. I cursed myself for not having all the numbers ready in case this ever happened. After twenty minutes I got a hold of him at his office.
“I have been calling your number,” I said, “a message says your voice mail is full!”
“Sorry, the cell is in the car.” He sounded like he had his feet up on his paper-strewn desk without a care in the world. I wondered how many messages it took to fill the mailbox.
The sensations and feelings I experienced during this time were a compression of the weeks around my father’s death. Rage and panic replaced every other emotion.
I knew it! I had been against trying to file any more papers on Hubby’s behalf even as he and my best friend urged me to do it. I love my country, but had limited faith in my government after a decade went by while Congressmen and Senators shook hands over compromises on immigration reform and then did nothing. Against every instinct I had, I had taken a leap of faith by trusting this guy: Don—, this pendejo, at all.
When we first started working with him, Don Pendejo said explicitly that if we filed papers to get Hubby fixed and Hubby did get picked up, the attorney he worked with would go to court and file a waiver specifically designed for people in Hubby’s situation. This new waiver was the reason I trusted him at all. I had heard something about this elsewhere. The recommendation by Hubby’s friend who had worked with him was the reason I looked past the small messy office and his inability to write coherent emails or return phone calls. Hubby and I had disagreed over working with Don Pendejo since the beginning and here I was proven right in the worst way.
I told him that Hubby had been picked up and was going to be sent to the detention center in Tacoma. He told me that the attorney he worked with was very busy and he didn’t think he would be able to take the case, but he could try. I made one attempt to explain that he said this attorney would be available for us before the phone started beeping with an incoming call. Time was slipping away and I was about to waste more by screaming at him.
Hubby’s boss was the call coming in and when I was through with Don Pendejo I called him back. This is someone who had done a great deal for Hubby and we had spent a few enjoyable nights at company functions with him and his wife. He was calm and in charge, asking if there was anything he needed to know and I told him no. I explained this was not because Hubby had been doing anything he shouldn’t, only that somehow ICE had decided to pick him up. I had no idea what had prompted them picking him up.
During this time, there was a lot of speculation about why this happened at all. Hubby had made a few enemies at work and one of them had recently begun breaking into his office and causing other kinds of trouble. Several of us were convinced that this guy or another one of his friends had hoped to cause more problems by calling Immigration. I know how these particular types of people think. I lived with one for almost ten years: Mexicans are damn hard workers, they put Americans out of work and all of them are illegal. My bet was that this guy had called the law to exert his meager authority and shake things up. I speculated with Hubby’s boss about this but told him I had to get off the phone so I could find another attorney. What to say and to whom was another concern I had as the week unfolded. If everything in the end turned out okay, I did not want anything I said to effect Hubby’s relations at work.
I had to go pick up my daughter. How do you tell your eight-year-old that Daddy is not coming home? How do you explain something like this? I still don’t know. I know that when I pulled up in front of that cheerful log cabin, walked in and collected her, I was shaking. My thinking was already racing through every possible scenario. Hubby might be home with us in a couple of days. Hubby might never come home. There might be an accident and Hubby might die in there.
I smiled at the teachers who were getting the kids ready to go. I smiled at my girl who showed me what she had done and walked her quickly to the car, already worrying that the drive time was going to eat up the remainder of the Office work day. I had to get Hubby an attorney before 5pm when all the offices would be closed. I made lists in my head as she talked and I walked her to the car and asked her how her day was.
I do not usually post photos of Hubby and the kids, but here the benefits outweigh the concerns.
This moment reminded me so much of the hours leading up to my mother’s funeral. My sister and I were practicing our readings for the funeral and were both struck by a fit of laughter. The situation was so grave that it became comic. There is that weird feeling of being outside yourself and thinking wraps inward. How can you laugh? How can you not laugh?
The need to burst out laughing during moments like this is probably due to some emotional response a shrink could explain, but all I know is that it was difficult not to. Laugh or cry? I couldn’t cry because that would be more upsetting to her, I knew that much. I had to be the strong one, I had to set a solid example. I always urge my children to cry; it is healthy. I hoped at some point I would be able to.
With a straight face and pinched mouth, I told her that Daddy had been picked up and I didn’t know when he would be home.
Her face went blank, then she had tears in her eyes and with a rising voice said, “What?”
I hugged her, and she asked, “How can they do that?”
She cried, and then I explained that I was going to have to call the lawyer to try and get Daddy out. I might have told her everything would be okay. Part of me hopes I did and part of me doesn’t. That would have been a lie.
She drew this on the chalkboard almost a year later on the day that we left for Baja.
As I write this I am struck by how cold I must seem in how I handled things with her, but what I remember about this interaction was both the need to avoid scaring her and the knowledge that I couldn’t stop that from happening. No matter what, Daddy was not coming home that night and I couldn’t change that with reassurances. What was immediate was the pressure to get an attorney involved to get Daddy back.
I called another friend who had told me about an attorney she had almost worked with but the fee was too high, then I called one more who had told me about another one she was working with. The drive home seemed to take forever and time was a major concern. Leaving messages and then waiting for responses during a time like this is awful. Nobody else has the same sense of urgency and they don’t appear to understand the gravity of the situation, though their words are comforting. I was left to wait and fend off the apocalyptic images and scenarios my mind was trotting out.
I had asked my sitter to keep my youngest with her for an extra hour but now it was time to go get her. When we were home I got a call back from one attorney’s receptionist. She said that normally it would have taken a week to get someone to go down to the detention center but one of their attorneys would already be down there dealing with another case. She said he would stop and see Hubby after that.
Now, I at least had a sense that the immediate problem was taken care of. It was time to talk to my youngest. She was four. When I told her that Daddy wasn’t coming home for a few nights, she took it in stride. “Can we watch a movie?”
I was grateful that she didn’t understand what was happening and wasn’t going to ask as many questions. My other one was crying in the living room. For the rest of the night they watched TV and played with their Pet Shops while I fielded more calls. Hubby’s truck was left in the parking lot at work and people were already worried about what I was going to do with it. The friend who gave me the attorney’s name (who ultimately came through) came by with food and I tried to talk to her while ignoring the phone. There were some calls I ignored, and others I took while she talked to the kids and remained cheerful. One person sent a video which I have attached below of the actual pick up. I might have eaten. I think my friend fed the kids. I don’t think they got their nightly shower.
By ten o’clock, the phone was still ringing, but I was only answering calls from people who could help me in some way. This is cold, but I had no energy left to explain to anyone else about what had happened, why it happened or anything else. I knew I was going to need to be ready for the next day.
I took this on the day we left for Baja. As I was stuffing the last batch of junk from a drawer into my purse, I looked up and saw this sticking to the side of the fridge. One of our magnetic poetry words sticks beside it. That small word:how.
The pickup video clips:
A promised, here are the video clips of Hubby being taken in the middle of the day outside his workplace by two ICE agents. These were taken on a cell phone by a two men who stood watching. Hubby got to work about 5am and was on his way out at 1:30pm to pick up some parts for work. He does not generally leave work before he goes home at 4. This parking lot fills up after 6am so the two black SUVs that were waiting on either side of his white pickup truck (on the left in the video) must have been waiting for a while. They waited until he was in the truck before they approached him.
In this first clip, we see two agents with Hubby at his truck. He says one approached him while he was sitting in his pickup, the other agent went around to the passenger side door.
In this second video the agents are getting Hubby out of his white pickup, explaining his rights and leading him to a big black DODGE (this was stated in one video as a possible make) that we don’t see yet but has been there since the start of video 1. What is extremely important to note here is that while he was in handcuffs, they made him lock the truck. They took his keys.
In this third clip, Hubby has already been placed into the DODGE SUV that we can’t see just yet. We will see it pulling away near the end of the final clip. Hubby sat in the SUV for a short time by himself. In this third clip, we see the agents go back to the truck, open the passenger door and look through it. This is not just my interpretation of what I see, you can hear commentary from the guys filming this.
Here we see one of the agents go to what looks like a black Lexus SUV and pull it around to face Hubby’s truck, then we see the DODGE SUV that Hubby has been placed in pull forward. It had been facing the exit. The Lexus swings around and follows behind the DODGE that holds my husband and both cars drive away. How many minutes until I got my call I can’t say, but from the timing Hubby gives me, it was probably a half hour.
I love the commentary in video 3. “What the fuck are they doing? Fuckers.” I bet they went home and indeed fucked someone and slept quite soundly. Hubby told me that the way they put the handcuffs on him was rough, and he asked them why they were doing this to him. He explained that he had a wife, kids and a job. He asked who was going to pay the mortgage. He says he tried to talk to them like they were all people.
The response he got: “I am just doing my job.”
A couple of months after this happened, a group of protesters made the news while attempting to stop a bus outside the Tacoma Detention facility. Here is a link to their online home: #Not1MoreDeportation. They post reports, timelines and other information related to the deportation crisis. Each time I visited Hubby in detention, he told me that Obama was behind the deportations. While he was in detention he heard stories and listened to far too much rumor. I thought this was too simple and still do: Follow the money. Still, the information, particularly the timeline, made me doubt my faith in a man who, initially, gave us all so much hope.
In April I finally followed up on my friend Jack’s suggestion to seek out other women who are in the same predicament. I found this.