Dispatches from Middle America

By Alex Enyart

Along with increased activities nationwide, in known Latino neighborhoods such as Fairmont City, Illinois, we are seeing an increase in the number of squad cars used in common speed traps. Where previously these were marked cruisers, we are now seeing an increase in the use of unmarked vehicles at these checkpoints.

“In the week since the executive orders, they went from two children receiving this foster care to nine, a 450% increase.”

One local social service provider, Puentes de Esperanza (Bridges of Hope), is contracted to provide bilingual foster care for children from bilingual or Spanish only families. When the undocumented parents of US-born, US Citizen children are detained by ICE, Puentes places the children with foster parents and provides other necessary social services which the State of Illinois pays for. In the week since the executive orders, they went from two children receiving this foster care to nine, a 450% increase.

What’s most alarming about these detentions is that they do not appear to target criminals. Indeed, the most severe crime involved in these detentions appears to be a DUI from a decade prior. ICE and police check points appear to be going after anyone they can find. Busted taillights, chipped windshield, a missed court date for a traffic ticket are now leading to families being torn apart without a moment’s notice.

The most senseless part of it all is that Fairmont City is one of the most peaceful, nice areas in our notoriously seedy strip club stretch of towns and cities in the American Bottoms. The area was decrepit and failing before Mexicans started moving into the area. Over the last 7 years, there has been a boom of immigration and businesses are expanding to the point that hammers are constantly heard over huaraches.

We are telling them to prepare powers of attorney for property and temporary guardianship for their children. Find a family member or friend you can trust who can care for the children if you are detained and eventually deported. Keep your medical records close and any medication with you and in the pill bottle with your name on it.

“One prominent question, stood out from the rest. Could their US-born, US Citizen children come back?”

A group of lawyers stood in a stuffy community hall, next to the kitchen where they prepare chorizo by hand for the town’s annual fiesta, a tradition began by Fairmont’s original Spaniards fleeing Franco’s Fascism following the fall of Barcelona, 1939. We did not have many answers as to what will happen, just advice for how to prepare. One prominent question, stood out from the rest. “Could their US-born, US Citizen children come back?”

Outside, the children played on the swing sets and their mothers talked in the unusually warm February Southern Illinois air. The conversation centered on getting passports for their children. Like Moses, they may never see the Promised Land, but their children shall.

None of us up there really know what will happen or when. Tensions are understandably high. Good, wholesome families with US Citizen children are being ripped apart by one man’s edict from on high. As lawyers, we are manning the barricadas to buy them enough time to get their affairs in order for what appears to be the beginning of a mass exodus for many. The February air isn’t the only thing that’s heating up and there’s no telling when it will break.


About the AuthorEnyart
Alex Enyart was born and raised in Belleville, Illinois. He earned his Bachelor’s in Spanish from Knox College in 2008 and his law degree from Southern Illinois University School of Law. He recently started up Eckert Enyart Attorneys at Law with his father, retired US Congressman and Major General Bill Enyart. Prior to private practice, he was an Assistant Public Defender in St. Clair County’s Felony Division. Before, during, and after law school he has been active working for and with non-profit legal service providers such as Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, the MICA Project, and Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project. He lives in Belleville, teaches law at Lindenwood University-Belleville and freelances as a Spanish/English interpreter and translator.


[Source: The Refuge (March 2017), Volume 1, Edition 1, pages 7-8]

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