U.S. Immigrants
The Next Fight over Race,
Adoption, and Foster Care?
On August 19, 2009, a friend of mine, let’s say her name is Mercedes, was
pulled over in a routine traffic stop (brown people with older cars get
stopped a lot in Arizona, to the point where many people refer to the crime
of ‘‘driving while Mexican’’). When they realized she did not speak English,
the Tucson Police Department questioned her about her immigration
status (which they were not supposed to do).∞
She showed them her
border-crossing card; as a resident of the border state of Sonora, she had
applied for and gotten permission to enter freely to visit family and friends.
They asked to see the birth certificate of her two-year-old daughter, Steph-
anie, who was in the car seat in back. Because Mercedes understood the
protocols of harassment and fear that characterize the potential conse-
quences of putting a brown child in your car in a border city (as I had
learned, too, years earlier), she did something few white suburban parents
could do: reached into the glove compartment for the copy of Stephanie’s
birth certificate that she kept there. Stephanie, it showed, was born in
Tucson, and Mercedes was indeed her mother. The police officers said the
birth certificate indicated that Mercedes was really living in Tucson, which
is not permitted under the terms of her visa. They turned her over to
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice).
ice whisked Mercedes off to an immigrant detention center seventy-five
miles away. They weren’t gentle, and being manhandled was frightening
enough. But most terrifyingly, they took Stephanie away. They told Mer-
Previous Page Next Page