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Shelter From The Storm

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Message Jamilah Hoffman

It's been raining all day. You had never felt such strong wind. Your children are scared and the weather reports are telling you the same thing: The storm is coming and you and your family need to get out of the hurricane's path immediately. You pack up some clothing, grab some baby formula and make sure your sick mother has all her medications. You gather up your family and walk to the elementary school down the street, the designated evacuation center. It is here that you will board school buses that will drive you to safety.

You and your family huddle together, waiting in line to find seats on the bus. You spot your neighbor and wave at them when you begin to see the yellow of flashlights on people's faces and hear yelling coming from the front of the line. "Let me see your ID!" you hear. "Papeles!" rings out in the air.

You hold on tighter to your family as you realize that while your children are citizens, you and your mother are not. "Sus papeles, senora?" asks one of the Border Patrol agents.

"No los tengo," you say as you begin to cry out. You hold on to your mother and children as they are being ripped from your arms , thinking that all you wanted to do was take your family to safety. Now, you wonder if you will ever see them again.

If a hurricane hits the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, people trying to escape the devastation will be prescreened for citizenship before being allowed to step onto any of the evacuation busses. Seriously. Instead of having a system in place that guarantees that in a time of need, people are taken care of; we have a system that cares more about whether or not you have the right papers. Border Patrol spokesman, Dan Doty, has said that, "In the event of a mandatory evacuation, any illegal alien that is taken into custody by the Border Patrol will be evacuated by the Border Patrol to a detention facility in a safe area of the state. People in custody will still be moved out of the immediate danger areas." Drills have already taken place over two days in the border town of McAllen.

People may be moved out of the danger area of the storm, but then they'd find themselves at the mercy of a system that is growing more intolerant as each day goes by. And if we think that maybe there would be some compassion shown to people who have left their homes behind to flee a storm, a former Border Patrol agent, and current Texas State Representative, Juan Escobar, comes out with the truth. "Once you are in custody, they are going to deport you out of the country. Have no doubt about that. The law is very clear, unless there are special instructions from the Department of Homeland Security, those that are apprehended are to be deported."

Looking at this situation, I am reminded of the institution of slavery in america. Among all the horrors slaves endured, and there were plenty, families were split up and sold to different owners, never to see each other again. I can only imagine the pain my ancestors went through those centuries ago yet I have a clear view today of what immigrants face just trying to survive. They are literally faced with the choice of seeking help in a natural disaster which carries the risk of being deported, or they can stay behind to ride out a hurricane, hoping to survive the storm.


Author's Note: Due to all the controversy surrounding the recent drills and reports that border agents would check for the legal status of residents leaving the Rio Grande Valley in the case of a natural emergency, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff responded by saying that priority number one is the safe evacuation of people leaving the danger zone and that border security would do nothing to impeded a safe and speedy evacuation.

Considering that Chertoff is part of the Bush regime, anything he says must be weighed in that light.

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an internationalist who proudly waves the red flag, jamilah hoffman believes that if there are no poets, then it's not her revolution.
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