Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reunion after ICE raid

The Daily Record
March 21, 2011

Tess Maczis believes every person can make a difference.

It’s a big part of the reason the 16-year-old Ellensburg High School junior, co-president of the school’s Peace Club and a student body officer, is one of the high school students now volunteering with APOYO, a not-for-profit organization that provides food and other assistance to the Hispanic community.

“What got me was it was something that happened at our school with people we knew,” she says. “Everybody wanted to do something to help and not just stand by.”

Tess would find a kindred spirit in Dianne Aid. Aid, who now lives in Kent, came to Ellensburg to attend Central Washington University and stayed 20 years. Along the way she met a young Mexican couple, Ramon and Angelica Gonzalez, at church. They were undocumented immigrants struggling to forge a new life. When their second child, Ricardo, was born 17 years ago, they asked Aid to be his godmother.

Time passed.

Eventually, Aid lost touch with the Gonzalez family.

Then in the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 20, agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a raid in Ellensburg and arrested 34 members of the Hispanic community.

Fifteen had criminal arrest warrants. Nineteen were detained on administrative charges (being in the county illegally). The numbers are based on information provided to the Ellensburg Coalition for Humanity by the offices of U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, who met with ICE officials following the raid.

On the west side of the state, Aid, who serves on the national steering committee of what is termed the New Sanctuary Movement, was monitoring what had happened. Aid is a member of St. Matthew’s/San Mateo Episcopal Church in Auburn, the most diverse congregation in the Diocese of Olympia. Fifty percent of its congregation is Latino and its English-speaking members include immigrants from the Fiji Islands, First Nations people, African Americans and Japanese Americans. Aid serves as director of the church’s Jubilee Ministries program, a ministry that focuses on immigration grassroots organizing, legal services and sanctuary.

Names on list

After the raid, an organizer from the United Farmworkers Union went to Ellensburg to compile a list of people detained or not accounted for. The Rev. Ernie Harrelson, pastor of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Yakima, passed the list on to Aid.

Two names leaped out at her: Ramon and Angelica Gonzalez.

On Tuesday after the raid, Aid was attending a meeting of the Washington Immigration Reform Coalition watching a film clip KIRO had done on a rally in Yakima.

“Here was this 17-year-old kid talking about ICE coming into his home. His name is Ricardo. He looks a lot like his mom. I knew then I had to find them,” Aid says. She asked Harrelson to ask Ricardo to contact her.

Ricardo, now a junior at Ellensburg High School, did.

“Are you my godmother?” he asked.

Yes, Aid said.

“I really didn’t know her,” Ricardo says now in a soft voice. “I was so little when she knew us. But my mom had talked about her. I didn’t have an attorney. She said she was going to help me.”

It was one week to the day that Ricardo had watched helplessly as his parents were arrested.

Angelica, facing charges of using false documents, was being held in Yakima. Ramon had been taken directly to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on administrative charges (being in the country illegally) and was awaiting deportation.

“When Ramon got to the detention center, he’d done what a lot of people unwittingly do,” Aid says. “He signed papers for voluntary departure. They ship people out once a week from there. Ramon would have been deported that Saturday (just two days after she and Ricardo spoke).

“So I got hold of an immigration attorney friend of mine,” Aid says. “I said, ‘I don’t care what it takes. Can you stop this?’”

Bond reduced

On Friday, the attorney went to the detention center and talked with Ramon who withdrew his voluntary departure request. A few days later, Angelica was transferred to the detention center. Angelica’s bond had been set at $15,000. No bond had been set for Ramon.

The following Wednesday, a bond hearing took place in the tiny courtroom at the detention center. Aid said supporters were present, including Ricardo who showed up armed with letters of support and character references, including one from Aid.

Angelica’s bond was reduced to $3,000. Ramon’s was set at $1,500.

Ricardo paid their bond with donations from family and friends. The immigration fund at St. Matthews is paying the costs for the bond hearing. “The attorney charged half his usual fee for one person to take them both,” a grateful Aid says.

Released at around 6 that evening, Ramon and Angelica returned home with a relieved Ricardo.

“At first I couldn’t believe it,” he says now. “I called my brothers. I felt really happy. When we got to our house, family and friends were at our house. We ate some cake. People brought flowers and food.”

Angelica and Ramon are now waiting for what happens next.

“They cannot work,” Ricardo says. “My mom has a hearing in October.” As for his father, “they haven’t given him one yet.”

Ricardo, an honor student who had perfect attendance since middle school until his parents were arrested, is trying to refocus on normal high school life.

But it’s a challenge.

“I have to behave now like an adult,” he says. “It’s kind of sad. It’s a hard struggle to pass through and a really hard struggle when your family gets separated.”

Aid says an effort is under way to try to help Ricardo’s parents gain legal status.

“People who have more than 10 years present in the U.S. and have relatives who are United States citizens, if they can prove hardship on that citizen from deportation then they may be granted relief from deportation,” she says. If that fails, Aid says it’s possible that Ricardo himself, a U.S.-born citizen, could petition to have them come back to this country when he is 21.

“They’re getting by. I talk with them a lot now,” Aid says. “We won’t lose contact any more. My thoughts, when Ricardo called me that night were, ‘I have not been here for this child all these years and at this critical juncture, I can do it.’”