I’ve been reading the news.
I’ve been watching Facebook videos of anguished children being separated from their desperate families at the Mexican/American border. Children being ripped from their mother’s arms. Teens, toddlers, babies. The children are taken away to detention centers, you’ve seen the cages, and some enter the foster care system. Some disappear.
The parents are jailed. Helpless to protect their children, which for most of them, is why they’d made the journey. They now wait to be criminally prosecuted. They have no idea what has happened to their kids.
I know you know. You’ve probably seen and read the same posts. They are shocking and extremely sad.
For me, this is bringing up some old feelings and fears. Not too long ago, I was an illegal immigrant.
I’d crossed the border from Canada to the U.S. legally, but ended up living illegally in the states for eight years. I was trying to protect myself and my daughter from her abusive father. A father who had manipulated the court systems to get custody. It also helped that the judges wanted to give him all of the power. Both in Canada and the U.S. there was major male bonding happening in the judicial system.
For those eight years as an illegal immigrant, I tried to give my daughter the best life I could – a stable home, a good education, friends, community, activities and hobbies. But always in the back of my head was the fact that we were being hunted. That at any moment my life and my child’s life could be destroyed.
Today, the family courts continue to degrade. British film maker, Rachel Meyrick, made a documentary on women and custody fights in the Unites States. She has said, “A judge is more likely to award child custody to a violent father than a protective mother. The court system is biased towards male privilege and wealth.” In Canada, my friend’s ex-husband was granted full custody of their child by extremely dubious means. She fought for eight-months to get her child back and was drained of all of her savings. When she was finally awarded shared custody, after proving herself worthy, her ex-husband began to sue her. Just another tactic of continued abuse.
As for me, I was eventually caught. My daughter was taken by Child Protective Services. They wouldn’t tell me where they were taking her or what was going to happen. The police arrested me and put me in jail. CPS finally visited and told me that they could tell that my daughter was well loved and taken care of by me. I now learned that they had placed her in foster care. Then they charged me with child abuse. The abuse? Because I’d been jailed, I had neglected to care for my child. Weeks later when I was released, I was rearrested by the Department of Homeland Security. They kept me in a solitary cell then finger printed, retina scanned, and questioned me for hours.
CPS had handed my daughter over to her father and he took her away. I wouldn’t have known anything if I hadn’t had family and friends on the outside. I couldn’t communicate to my daughter at all. I did not know if she was ok. I did not know if her father was hurting her. I didn’t have anyway or any means to protect her.
And you know what? No one else was trying to protect her either. Not the police. Not Child Protective Services. Not the Department of Homeland Security. Not judges. No one. She was on her own.
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