The New Bedford Verdict Is In: A $500 Fine For a Factory Manager, A Death Sentence For A Migrant Worker

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(Peter Pereira / New Bedford Standard Times)

When Ricardo Gomez Garcia was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New Bedford, it served as his death sentence.  For one of the factory managers charged in the raid, Gloria Melo, it ended in a $500 fine. 

Garcia's story is one of the most heartbreaking stories I know.  He was picked up in the now infamous New Bedford raid, resulting in his separation from his wife and his U.S. citizen autistic son.  He fought desperately to stay in the U.S. and be reunited with them.  When he was finally deported after six months of detention, he had his mother in Guatemala sell her house for $5000 so he could pay a coyote to return to the U.S. 

Garcia's family in Guatemala reported he wasn't feeling well and they urged him to stay but he left anyways.  He arrived in New Bedford on Oct. 28. He was able to spend 12 hours with his wife and his son before he died.  His throat closed up.  Today is the anniversary of his death.  Garcia fought for seventh months and 26 days to be reunited with his family.  12 hours is more than most unauthorized migrant families get.  Garcia's story is an epic tale of love and suffering.

Garcia died for the "crime" of casting off the chains he was born into and pursuing his happiness in another country.  Almost exactly one year later, the Associated Press is reported that two of the factory managers charged in the New Bedford raid won't even see the inside of a prison cell.
Garcia dies, and while factory managers get only fines, probation, and home confinement. 

Two managers of a New Bedford leather-goods factory that was raided last year in a controversial crackdown on illegal immigration pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges that they employed illegal workers.

[...]

Under a plea agreement that must be approved by District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, [Dilia] Costa would serve two years of probation - the first six months in home confinement - and pay a $2,000 fine. [Gloria] Melo would pay a $500 fine. The two are to be sentenced in January.

Jonathan Saltzman - Associated Press (25 October 2008)

Factory owner Francesco Insolia still has conspiracy charges pending, but in the meantime he has been to Panama on a "humanitarian mission" and to "Puerto Rico on business"

Is this justice? Really?  The vast majority of people in the world are confined to the arbitrary lines they are born into, while the privileged few have no borders to their entertainment and their exploitation of the Earth's resources. 

Claudio Sanchez of National Public Radio has done some amazing reporting on the tale of Ricardo Gomez Garcia.  Sanchez's first report was actually filed before Garcia died as his family awaited the outcome of his detention.  I transcribed it in an earlier post:

Claudio Sanchez: A three story apartment building at the end of a narrow steep spiral stairway, a middle-aged woman no taller than 4'10'', black hair pulled tight in a bun, answers the door of a small apartment.  A little boy clings to the woman's dress, he groans. 

"He doesn't speak," she says, "but he was born in this country". As if that somehow made up for her son's disability.  We sit at a tiny table against the kitchen wall.  It's really dark.  She's $200 behind on the electric bill so she's trying to use as little electricity as possible...

Juana in Spanish: "The problem that I'm dealing with right now...I am traumatized by the sadness of my husband..."

Claudio Sanchez: Her little boy, though, isn't eating well.  Today, he's upset about something.  He thinks his father is coming home any day, now.

Juana in Spanish: "He looked for him and showed me his clothes.  He showed me his clothes and then looked towards the window, because he always looked that way when he was coming home from work.  Once he saw him he would wait for him at the door."

Claudio Sanchez: He points to his father's clothes in the closet and stands by the window every afternoon waiting for him to arrive from work.

Claudio Sanchez - National Public Radio (24 September 2007)

Claudio Sanchez also filed a report after Garcia died.  I will transcribe part of that report below as well:

Claudio Sanchez: His wife Dominga says he knocked at the door at 3 o'clock in the morning. "Let me in before anybody notices that I'm back," he pleaded.  He had not slept or bathed in over a week.  After he showered, Ricardo hugged and kissed his son, but refused to eat.  Dominga says she had never seen him so tired, thin, and pail. 

He told her about the three dead bodies he had seen in the Mexican desert, not far from the Arizona border.  They were in plastic bags, still warm.  "You shouldn't have touched them," Dominga told him.  He also told her about the voices he had heard along the way: voices of old people, beckoning.  The voices kept him from sleeping.  "How strange," Dominga remembers thinking.  

She gave him some tea mixed with cough medicine for his soar throat, and later a bowl of oatmeal which he barely touched.    Dominga insisted on taking him to the emergency room.  He refused.  She says Ricardo had always been healthy, and had never been hospitalized for anything during their 20-year marriage.    "I'll be fine," he told her.  "Besides, the hospital is going to ask me all kinds of questions.  And how are we going to pay the hospital bill of neither one of us is working?" he asked. 

Then, out of the blue, Ricardo asked Dominga if she had ever cheated on him.

"No," she told him.

"Look me in the eyes and tell me," he insisted. 

"Why don't we just pray and thank God that you're back with us again?" she asked him. 

They knelt at the foot of their bed and prayed to the Virgin Mary, and cried.  Don't cry, Ricardo told her, squeezing her hand tightly, "like he was saying goodbye," says Dominga. 

Eventually she dozed off until she heard Ricardo in a panic, struggling to open their two story apartment window, wanting to jump.  "What are you doing?" she screamed.  "I need air!" he said, "I need air!"  She pulled him away from the window.  "Water! Give me Water!" he told her.  She did, but he couldn't swallow.

Dominga says Ricardo then tried to put his hand down his throat as if he was trying to remove something.  He started bleeding from his nose and mouth.  Then, he collapsed in her arms.  Ricardo died before the paramedics could take him to the emergency room.  Cause of death: "An acute airway obstruction" according to the medical examiner's report.       

Claudio Sanchez - National Public Radio (12 November 2007)
I've transcribed these reports in case you don't have the time to listen to them  If you do have the time, you should.  Audio is much more personal than the written word.  I know Garcia's story has touched my soul.

If you're not already in touch with me and would like to find a way to fight back against all of this, drop me a line using the Citizen Orange contact form.  I'm not saying that the factory managers should be punished further, just that this system is a mess.  A death sentence for one should not be a fine for another.  As the first of the hundreds of Guatemalans that were rounded up in the Postville raid are sent back to Guatemala, there's a good chance one of them will die, too. 



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4 Comments

Ochieng M.Khairallah said:

Unimaginable, despicable and reckless. Little does it occur to them that they are not merely killing the Immigrant worker, they are indeed killing the future, their children and their children' children. Impunity is largely caused by arbitrariness in the application of laws and disrespect for the inalienable rights especially the right to life. Who will judge the judges? Consequently, who will judge the judges children and children's children? Letting such decisions pass un-challenged will no doubt invite a dangerous culture of impunity which will eventually stoke embers of violations, annihillations and destructions. No wonder the only quotable quotes currently are more about deaths, bombs, destructions of limps, property,conflicts, hatred, etcetera. Something must happen to reverse the current trend. We cannot watch as the world hurtle down the drain.Why did the great fathers of the wise insist that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done? For now I can only pray that God saves the world!

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

The urgency of this comment is well-placed. I thank you for submitting your words to Citizen Orange.

RicTresa said:

I really don't know what the hell is/has happened to America. Land of the free, home of the brave.

Part of what it says on the Statue of Liberty..

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Just imagine if when my people came from Ireland and Germany they were rounded up, jailed and shipped back. I wouldn't be typing this now.

I think what is happening to these people is a crime and we citizens should be ashamed to let it happen.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Well put RicTresa,

I'm sure if we get that message out to every other U.S. citizen, anti-migrant attitudes will be a thing of the past.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on October 28, 2008 10:00 AM.

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