Green cards in hand, Washingtons want Newsom to discuss immigrant youth policy. In person.

Got green card. Next, an audience with Newsom?
Charles Washington (right) heard today that his wife Tracey (left) and her son got their green cards

Tracey Washington and her 13-year old son heard today that their green card applications have been approved. This means that they will not be deported to Australia, and their personal immigration nightmare is over.
But even as the family rejoices, Tracey’s husband, Charles Washington, a Muni bus driver and long-term San Francisco resident, has written to Mayor Gavin Newsom, voicing disappointment over Newsom’s failure to reach out to his family during their time of need and over Newsom’s continuing refusal to implement the immigrant youth due process policy that a veto-proof majority of the Board approved, in November 2009.

"Our family's luck n this case was unique, but Mr. Newsom, the pain we felt when our family was facing deportation as a result of your policy is not unique at all," Washington wrote in his April 21 letter. "We share the pain felt by the many other families whose children were taken into ICE custody and ordered deported, as a result of your policy." (The full text of the letter that Charles Washington sent to Newsom today is included at the end of this blog post.)
The Washingtons’ nightmare began in January, when their 13-year-old boy was reported by juvenile probation to ICE for a minor bullying incident, during which he took 46 cents from another youth, then gave it back and apologized. That’s when the family first discovered that, thanks to a new juvenile immigrant policy that Newsom implemented in July 2008, their teen was going to reported to ICE immediately after his arrest – and before his case was heard in juvenile court. 

And even though the family was eligible for green cards thanks to Tracey’s April 2009 marriage to U.S. citizen Charles Washington, ICE handed Tracey and her son their deportation orders on Feb. 5, 2010--the same day they picked the boy up from juvenile detention and used the boy as bait to get his mother to agree to wear an electronic monitoring anklet.

That anklet was finally taken off today, meaning that Tracey Washington was forced to wear this uncomfortable and humiliating device for two and a half months, even though she did not commit a crime--and even though her son was not found guilty as charged, when his case was finally adjudicated by a juvenile justice.

Following the bullying incident, local law enforcement officers charged the boy with three felony counts, triggering an immediate referral to ICE, under Newsom's immigrant youth policy.  But a juvenile justice recently gave the boy informal probation, recognizing that the youth is a first-time offender who committed a low level offense and is a good candidate for rehabilitation.

But seven weeks ago (March 1), when Tracey and her son had exhausted their legal options and were facing imminent deportation, the five-member blended Washington family held a press conference as a last resort. Two days later, following a media firestorm, ICE granted the Washingtons a two-month reprive, so that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could review and approve their green card applications.

"We really appreciate that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was willing to look at our individual circumstances and approve our residency application, so that our family can stay together,” Tracey Washington said today. “ At the same time, my heart goes out to the many other families who were harmed by the Mayor's policy.” 

Angela Chan, the staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, who handled the family’s case, noted that while the Washington’s nightmare ended happily, many other families continue to be broken up by harsh immigration laws, lack of access to affordable legal services, and Mayor Newsom's local policy towards immigrant youth.

“Newsom's policy exacerbates the impact of a broken federal immigration system on San Francisco families,” Chan said. “We need humane reform at the federal level, but in the meantime, Mayor Newsom needs to take a stand today for due process and family unity by ending San Francisco's draconian policy. If the Washingtons' son had not been reported to ICE, as required by Newsom's policy, he would not have been sent to ICE, and he and his family would not have had to endure this nightmare."
Letter to Mayor Newsom from Washington Family--
April        21, 2010
Mayor Gavin Newsom
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
RE: Unjust Policy Regarding Undocumented Youth in San Francisco

Dear Mayor Newsom,

My name is Charles Washington. I was born and raised in San Francisco, and am a long-time resident of this great city. I also am a city employee. I love the city of San Francisco and my family has developed strong roots here. Unfortunately, last month, we went through a horrible ordeal when my wife and step-son were ordered deported as a result of your policy, which requires reporting of youth to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) right after arrest, before the youth even has a chance to have a hearing in juvenile court regarding the charges.

As you may have read in the news, my 13-year-old son was arrested and reported to ICE for deportation over 46 cents in a minor, first-time bullying case. In accordance with your policy, San Francisco juvenile probation officers reported my son to ICE before the allegations could even be adjudicated by a juvenile court judge. To my shock, my wife also was ordered deported by ICE as a result of the reporting of my son by juvenile probation in keeping with your policy.

With the imminent deportation hanging over my wife and son's heads, we were utterly terrified that our family would be torn apart. Since we had no other legal remedies when our request for a stay of deportation was denied, we desperately reached out to the media to seek help in a last ditch effort. Fortunately, a reporter contacted the White House, which then resulted in an extension of the deadline for the deportation. However, I must tell you that during this time, we were really disappointed that we did not receive a single call or any type of outreach from your office to offer my family support, especially when my son's referral to ICE was a direct consequence of your policy.

I also would like to express my deep disappointment in the statements your office issued after my family was granted the reprieve through no help from your office. Your office made statements to the press suggesting that our situation proves your policy leads to just outcomes. I completely disagree with this assertion and firmly believe that our being granted the reprieve has proven even more so that your policy hurts families and tears children away from their parents for minor, first-time offenses. The White House seems to understand the importance of keeping families together in granting the reprieve. Unfortunately, your office appears to have missed this completely. It is extremely hurtful to our family that you would try to claim credit for the positive turn in events that my family and the community supporting us worked hard to obtain in order to combat the injustice brought upon us by the policy you implemented in the first place.

Let me also say that my family was lucky, but there are many other families who have not been as fortunate.There was no handbook to tell us what to do to obtain a reprieve when we were in this crisis. It just so happened that we were able to obtain legal assistance, but what if we had been unable to find legal services or if the press had not covered our story? My wife and son would have been torn from me and there is nothing I could have done to stop it from happening. Families in San Francisco should not have to struggle or rely on luck to stay together. In fact, there have been over a hundred families in this city who have not been as fortunate as my family since your harsh and inhumane policy was implemented in 2008.  Our family's luck in this case was unique, but Mr. Newsom, the pain we felt when our family was facing deportation as a result of your policy is not unique at all.We share the pain felt by the many other families whose children were taken into ICE custody and ordered deported as a result of your policy.

Mr. Newsom, I know that you are a new father yourself and will teach your own daughter many lessons in her lifetime. I respectfully ask you to reexamine your policy from the eyes of a father, the way that I am looking at my son today. While I must say that I am greatly disappointed in the actions you have taken to support a flawed policy that has endangered the children of this city, I do hope that you will take this opportunity to do the right thing and support implementation of Supervisor Campos' due process amendment, which is now city law.  Families like mine, who are hard-working and rooted in San Francisco, are depending on you to do what is right and to follow the law the community passed in November 2009.

I respectfully request a meeting with you, in which my lawyer, Angela Chan from the Asian Law Caucus, and my family can speak with you about this policy and how it has affected us and continues to impact families in San Francisco.

Charles Washington