The children just can’t stop crying

Makenda Kambana - Jimmy Mubenga's wife - (left) with family and supporters

Makenda Kambana – Jimmy Mubenga’s wife – (left) with family and supporters

Today, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day. How does Europe mark Angola’s independence?

Jimmy Mubenga was on a `hit list’ in Angola, and so he fled to England. He applied for asylum. Denied asylum, he was put on a plane. His wife and five children remained in England. Mubenga resisted deportation. He was forcibly placed on a plane and, according to witnesses, killed by G4S escorts. His widow, Makenda Kambana, reported, “The children just can’t stop crying and I don’t know what to say to them.” That was then. A year later, Makenda Kambana reports that little has changed, except, perhaps, for her education. Now she knows that her husband was not an anomaly, that he was part of a culture of mistreatment and abuse of people of color by the so-called escorts. What does she say to her children now?

That was 2010.

Five years earlier, Manuel Bravo, suffered a related fate. Bravo had arrived in England, with his wife Lidia and two sons, in 2001. He had been imprisoned for pro-democracy activities, and his parents and sister had been killed. In 2004, his wife took their son, Nelio, and returned to Angola, to take care of ailing relatives. She was arrested, and, upon release, fled to Namibia. Manuel Bravo was denied asylum, and then, in the middle of the night, border agents came to the house, took him and his son, Antonio, to the notorious, privately run Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, and told them to prepare for deportation the next day. That night, Manuel Bravo hanged himself, leaving a note that read, in part, “I kill my self, because I don’t have life for live any more. My son Antonio stay here in UK to continue his studying. When he grow up, he [illegible] your decision. I really sorry because I can’t return to Angola.”

Antonio did in fact stay in England. He did pursue his studies. He grew up to be a fine young man. And his reward, now that he’s an adult? The government seeks to deport him. Happy birthday, Antonio, welcome to adulthood.

And then there’s Amalia and Tucha. Amalia is 17; Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities. Tucha was raped. In 2005, alone and unaccompanied, they fled Angola. Last year, after living in the Netherlands for five years, they were denied asylum and peremptorily shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was a minor. No matter that no one can locate their relatives.

Amalia explains, “A group of policemen entered our bedroom in the middle of the night. They said: ‘Pack your stuff.’ I said: ‘Why, why, why? I’m not yet 18!’ But they grabbed us and put us on a plane. Five people accompanied us; I don’t know who they were. I just cried and cried.”

I just cried and cried.

This is the narrative of empire: The children just can’t stop crying.

 

(Photo Credit: Socialist Worker)

 

Deported children haunt the world

Emily Samantha Ruiz

A radio broadcast town meeting was held today in Fairfax, Virginia, a community renowned for its public school system, to discuss discipline in the Fairfax County schools. Near the end of the hour-long discussion, the moderator, Kojo Nnamde, presented a scenario based on a recent event, in which a six year old child was found to have brought cocaine into school and shared it with his friends. What is to be done? Should the child be expelled?

Tina Hone, Fairfax County School Board member, responded, “He’s a six-year-old. And what lesson are we teaching a six- or seven-year-old child by expelling him?… It is a six-year-old child. I am not going to label a six-year-old child for the rest of their lives as a drug dealer. I’m not going to do that… It’s a six-year-old child, for God’s sake. I think we need to think about that.”

We need to think about children, because children are being actively forgotten by the State. Children are addressed instead as surplus populations and disposable objects. Nowhere is this more evident than in the willingness of modern so-called democratic nation-States to ship off children, six years old, seven years old, four years old. The line from primary school expulsion to national deportation of very young children is a straight line, and it is the measure of our current historical moment.

Consider Emily Samantha Ruiz.

Emily Samantha Ruiz is four years old, a Long Island tot, a four-year-old little girl, a very little girl. Emily Samantha Ruiz is caught in an immigration snafu or perhaps quagmire. Emily Samantha Ruiz is currently in Guatemala, to which she was deported. Emily Samantha Ruiz is a United States citizen. Her parents are both undocumented residents.

Emily and her grandfather, who has, or had, a work visa, went to Guatemala, to visit family, to get away from the harsh winter and its impact on her asthma. On their return, as they came through Dulles Airport, in Virginia, the grandfather’s name came up at Customs and Border Protection, CBP, as having perhaps committed some immigration infraction twenty some years ago. CBP won’t reveal the exact details. The grandfather was detained. The parents were calling everywhere to find their daughter. They contacted a CPB agent, who asked if either was in the country legally. Mr. Ruiz responded they were not. The agent replied that the options were Emily could go enter the custody of the State of Virginia or return to Guatemala with her grandfather. The Ruizes were terrified that `custody’ would result in adoption. Likewise, they had reason to fear that if they showed up to pick up their daughter, her `custodians’ would arrest them. They `opted’ to have Emily return to Guatemala with her grandfather. The government says it did nothing wrong, played by the book, followed the rules.

What are the rules?

The public discussion of this event has focused, rightly, on the fact that Emily Samantha Ruiz is a U.S. citizen. Her citizenship is indeed important. So is her racial and ethnic status. So is her language.

But let’s not forget, Emily Samantha Ruiz is a four-year-old child, for God’s sake. “I think we need to think about that.” Emily is part of a global phenomenon in which nation-States – in the name of sovereignty, security, protection, even democracy – actively forget their responsibility to remember that children are children. What lesson are we teaching those children? Deported children haunt the modern world.

(Photo Credit: NY Daily News)