FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Children Without a Country

by GREG MOSES

“A man without a country,” is what Judge Maryanne Trump Barry called the hapless stowaway, Salim Yassir, who was born in Palestine, exiled to Libya, and jailed in the USA. Four years after foiling Yassir’s 2000 attempt to enter the USA, immigration authorities were still claiming they should keep him in jail while they looked for a country that would take him. But Judge Barry (the Donald’s older sister) put an end to that legal purgatory in 2004 when she ruled that a man without a country has rights, too. Yassir could just as easily live outside jail while authorities pursued their executive agendas.

In some ways Yassir’s story is similar to one now being lived by three Texas families of Palestinian heritage. They are people without a country. From Palestine they have fled to the USA, sometimes through other countries. Immigration authorities have denied them asylum, ordered them deported, and they are being jailed indefinitely in legal purgatory while some country is found to take them.

But the Texas families are not stowaways. They entered the USA with visas and have always lived public lives in their pursuit of asylum in the USA, growing their opportunities and their families along the way. The Ibrahim family, for example, arrived with four children, gave birth to a fifth, and are expecting a sixth. For the Ibrahim children who have lived in Palestine, memories are not so good, and they fear going back to a place where they are subject to so many military assaults.

Maryam Ibrahim was about two years old in 2000 when a gas canister crashed into her Palestinian home, rendering her unconscious for lack of breath. Pleading to USA authorities for asylum in 2002, Maryam’s father Salaheddin testified that his little girl was fearful of people in uniform. Yet USA authorities have denied asylum and placed Maryam in jail where family members say she is not allowed to run indoors or go outdoors, and where every night at 10 p.m. she is ordered into a cell separate from where her pregnant mother is being kept. Frequently, Maryam cries. Maryam shares the overnight cell with older sister Rodaina, while younger sister Faten shares a cell with mother Hanan. Family members confirm reports that Hanan is not getting medical attention for her pregnancy, placing Maryam’s little brother-to-be at risk.

Despite a near blackout from corporate media–who will often report about Hutto protest actions without mentioning the Palestinians–these three Texas families are attracting supporters, activists, and attorneys from near and far. On Thursday evening, Texas activists joined local residents in a third vigil outside the T. Don Hutto prison camp for immigrant families. Thanks to public documents obtained by Williamson County Sun reporter Ben Trollinger, folks were able to determine that a county lease arrangement with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) would expire next Wednesday, Jan. 31.

“It is a moral wrong to imprison children,” said county resident Jane Van Praag to the Williamson County Commissioners Court last Tuesday, making points she expects to repeat next Tuesday, the day before the lease with CCA expires. “It is morally wrong to imprison whole families with children without exhausting all the alternatives, which would allow families to stay together while ensuring immigrants attend their immigration hearing.”

Meanwhile, the education of jailed children became an issue this week when the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that hours of instruction had been increased from one to four since protests began in mid-December. Yet the increase was not enough to satisfy attorneys from the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) who have threatened to sue very soon if instruction is not increased to seven hours as mandated by state law. TCRP attorneys (with whom I work part time) have been busy with Williamson County schools lately, providing pro bono defenses for a hundred school children prosecuted by the Round Rock school district for attending historic immigrant-rights marches instead of classes last Spring.

At the Thursday vigil, people continued to talk about a broader agenda of resistance, not only closing the Hutto children’s prison, but every such prison in the USA. South Texas entrepreneur Jay J. Johnson-Castro, who discovered the expiration date in the lease between CCA and the county, carries around a liberally highlighted copy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Every right of the child that other countries have ratified is being violated at Hutto,” said Johnson-Castro. “This is international law that the US wouldn’t agree to. The international community has higher standards than the USA. And the reason is so the USA can do whatever it wants with impunity.”

As a result of treatyless impunity, children from all three families continue to suffer. Zahra Ibrahim, the fifth child mentioned above–and a USA citizen–has been prevented from seeing her pregnant mother since the two were separated upon arrest in early November.

Likewise with the 4-year-old citizen twin daughters of Adel Suleiman and Asma Quddoura. Adel, the father who was born into a Palestinian refugee camp 61 years ago, is now pleading for speedy deportation to end his solitary confinement in an Oklahoma City jail. Dallas attorney John Wheat Gibson says the solitary time is apparent retaliation for Suleiman’s public complaints about smelly and risky conditions in another Oklahoma County jail. Following Suleiman’s wishes, Gibson has dropped any actions that would delay the Suleiman family’s removal, including the deportation of the 4-year-old twin citizens. The deportation could come Monday, says Riad Hamad of the Texas-based Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund, who has been raising money to support the families and their legal fees.

As for the Hazahza family, information is more tightly guarded by the family attorney, but we have learned that when Ahmad recently turned 18 in a Haskell, Texas immigration prison, he was not removed from solitary confinement. Ahmad is the only member of these families that has been cited for having a criminal record–burglary convictions–although the original press release about his arrest curiously misstated his age in order to make him look like an adult.

The criminal treatment of all these families’ children would end, says Johnson-Castro, if the Convention on the Rights of the Child were adopted by the USA.

“It’s time for Congress to show what they are made of,” says Johnson-Castro. “There is an element within the Republican party committing this atrocity and profiting from it. We’re insisting that it stop now.”

Johnson-Castro will return to the Hutto jail for a fourth vigil on Feb. 12 as part of the Marcha Migrante II border caravan that will travel from San Diego to Brownsville and back. He may also toss in a demonstration at nearby Round Rock in solidarity with the prosecuted student marchers.

Border mayors from Texas are supporting the caravan, says Johnson-Castro. And this, according to Steve Taylor of the Rio Grande Guardian, is a better response from the mayors than Johnson-Castro got during his first border walk, just prior to the November 2006 elections.

The border mayors don’t want a wall, and they are not happy about the Texas Governor’s Jan. 22 announcement to send 600 armed National Guard for border patrol duties. Johnson-Castro says the border mayors were also dismayed by President George W. Bush’s Jan. 23 pledge to double the border guard.

“President Bush and Secretary Chertoff represent the heart of America as much as Governor Perry and Ted Nugent represent the heart of Texas,” said Johnson-Castro.

Ted Nugent rocked himself onto center stage of this political circus when he wore a confederate-flag t-shirt to his performance at the inaugural ball of the Texas Governor. Nugent denies that he made anti-immigrant remarks, too. As for the Texas Governor Rick Perry, when he heard that the confederate flag was not appreciated by Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, the Governor made a phone call. But he didn’t call Bledsoe to apologize. Instead, he called Nugent to commiserate. It’s enough to make a fellow ashamed that the Governor is from Texas.

As post-election politics reverts to Civil War for everyone all over again, word comes that Yankee lawyers will be coming down to reinforce the struggle for Constitutional principles in Texas–even when applied to children without a country. Which is why we are reading the Yassir decision in the first place. Stay tuned.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net.

 

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail