01 November 2017

I feel as though I've just given birth...

I feel as though I've just given birth but, as I'm 100% biological male, I know that's an impossibility in our reality.

I've had this feeling on a near-daily basis for the past twelve months. I feel as though my normal life has become amplified, like how a headache amplifies into a migraine. That is to say, I've been taking care of my mother, who on top of her ongoing health issues was diagnosed with her fourth round of breast cancer at the beginning of last November, supporting my sister with her four daughters (the eldest of whom I've previously written about is very special needs), helping my father (who's recently moved back to the area) launch a new business, and once in a while squeeze in an appointment or two for my own health needs that are ever-growing in this cosmic journey we're all in together as we swirl around through space on a water-covered rock orbiting around a giant blob of hydrogen and helium entwined in a fusion reaction we call the sun that we label growing older (which I'll be writing about in another article).
In other words, I'm a family caregiver. And I know that there are lots of other caregivers out there but it seems that over the past twelve months, my caregiving duties and responsibilities have been a bit overwhelming. It wasn't this difficult the last time my mother had cancer, and it certainly hasn't been this difficult in caring for my mother and other family members over the past few years while her cancer has been in remission. And there have been a number of reasons for that.

Before I get into it though, I'd like to explain some of the reasons behind my writing these personal update type articles now, rather than respond to people's questions at a later date.

First and foremost, I do not write these types of articles to elicit pity or sympathy from anyone. I'm not looking for an outpouring of "you poor thing" or "boo hoos." In fact, I'd much rather avoid those types of responses. Thankfully, my articles haven't generated such expressions of commiseration from my readers.

Rather, the primary reason I write about my personal life is to update quite a few of my friends and followers who are interested in and care about my life's journey. Over the years, I've made quite a few friends, and I'm grateful and thankful for each and every connection I have made. I cherish the conversations and interactions with my friends online. And when it comes to online relationships, I view them more in the mindset of a millennial; I don't really differentiate between online and "real" (or offline) people. But that, again, is another article.

When I began sharing parts of my life online (quite some time ago), I found it to be cathartic. And then I had people reach out and thank me for sharing my stories, for it gave them hope—hope that despite all of my struggles, I'm still here, so perhaps they could make it, too. And perhaps that, above all else, is what propels me to continue sharing the intimate and personal details of my life.

For those who have been paying attention, I hadn't written anything in nearly a year—from my post about celebrating my 29th birthday last October to a series of posts I wrote this year regarding an election that caught my attention in The Bronx. Although that's not entirely true; I've actually been writing this article since around February of this year. I just haven't been able to finish it.

Lest I forget, I would like to thank all of my friends who kept looking after me. You noticed that I wasn't posting online, despite all of the posts that were being made to my accounts. You saw that I wasn't there, and thus knew that something was amiss and reached out to me. Despite my not responding to you, I saw all of your messages. So in addition to thanking all of you, I apologize to all of you for not returning your messages and calls, and not responding to your outreach. But it's your reaching out to me that carried me through these darkest moments.

After the election was stolen from Bernie Sanders last year (with New York City recently admitting it wrongfully purged its voter rolls in the 2016 presidential primary elections), I became even more disheartened than I was before I decided to get back into politics. My depression grew exponentially, as did my despair. I knew what was to come: I and many other Bernie supporters predicted in social media posts: a Trump presidency, which would be only slightly better than a Clinton one in that we wouldn't be rushing off to war in the Middle East or elsewhere around the world. And so far, that prediction also has held true. While we may seem to be forever on the precipice of war, we have not gone over that precipice—something that would have happened with a Clinton presidency, for certain.

And then there was the general election, after the primaries. I couldn't support either of the major party candidates. It was brutal, to say the least. Friends, some of whom I'd known in real life for years, deserted me. Discussions online became tenuous, at best. The air was permeated by tension. Forget about walking on eggshells, this was an era of connecting grains of sand together and stepping only on those interconnected grains.
Hartford Capital City Pride

My saving grace (in more ways than one) was having found Hartford Capital City Pride (HCCP), an LGBTQ Pride organization in Hartford, CT, where mum lives. So I put some effort into that. But their pride celebrations took place in September, and afterwards there was a bit of a lull. Besides, being the diva that I am, I had to make my exit from their pride event last year by having an ambulance enter into the middle of the entire event and whisk me away to hospital, where I was admitted and spent a good five or so days, inpatient.

Up until this point I had been used to splitting my time between NY and CT. While I continued to do so until the holidays, it was clear that I needed to spend an extended amount of time in CT without returning to NY. Mum began complaining about painful lumps under her left arm. We made an appointment with her oncologist. Tests were ordered. The cancer was back. And the tumors were big, as in centimeters (denote the "s") big.

Since this wonderful news came in around the holidays, I decided to go home and gather a few months' worth of clothes, prepared to return for an extended stay. Little did I know at the time just how extended my stay was going to be. I returned to CT in time to celebrate the holidays with mum and then began making appointments to see as many of her (at the time) 18 doctors as necessary to figure out what to do to combat her fourth round of breast cancer.

By now, we knew that she has one of the breast cancer genes (she's ER+ PR+ HER2- BRCA1+). After consultation with a number of specialists, including her oncologist hematologist, the plan was to begin treating the cancer with chemotherapy-like hormonal treatments. These pills come with fairly severe side effects, although perhaps not quite as severe as intravenously-given chemotherapy treatment.

Some of mum's other health issues (hence the 12 15 18 or so doctors she has) include mental health issues, which can make it difficult to provide assistance and needed and appropriate care for her. For instance, I found the best knee specialist in the area, who recommended a total knee replacement of the left knee and arthroscopic surgery of the right knee. That was four years ago. Now, she probably needs both knees to be replaced. Because of her anxiety, she still refuses to have any surgeries. However, she doesn't believe entering into therapeutic or psychiatric care will do anything to help her, so she refuses.

My paternal Grandparents, circa 1960s
Why then, you might be asking yourself, would I put myself through the wringer, when I have my own issues to deal with? Well, it all goes back to my paternal grandmother's death.

When my paternal grandmother (dad's parents, who raised my sister and me from the age of 3 when dad and mom divorced) died, I wasn't there for her. I don't blame myself for not being there because I was in hospital at the time (for pretty much an entire year healing from my car accident), so it wasn't really possible for me to be there.

However, I also know that I might have been able to prevent her death, or at least been there for her. And I know that I just contradicted myself, but not entirely. I highly suspect that the nursing home where Grams was staying to recover from a broken hip royally screwed up in their care for her because my sister-in-law (a trained medical professional) told me that she witnessed the staff dropping her in bed on multiple occasions while turning Grams to prevent bed sores. Had I been there, I probably would have noticed that or other things. And trust me, I would have raised holy hell if medical staff were mistreating Grams, much in the same way I did when medical staff were not treating my eldest niece, Jennal, as well as they should have been.

So I promised myself, if anyone else in my family got into a situation where they were sick, I would do everything I could to be there for them, and ensure they received proper medical care. And if not, to raise holy hell. I only found out what the nursing home did long after Grams died, and Gramps didn't wanna sue, he saw no point in it. Ugh.

The next "blow" came shortly after receiving mom's diagnosis: Two days before Christmas, Twitter permanently suspended my account:

Email from Twitter advising me that my account was suspended and would not be restored, ever.

There are two important things to know about me: 1) Twitter is one of my primary social outlets (as well as social networks) and means of connecting with people, and 2) I abhor violence. Needless to say, receiving a notice from Twitter two days before Christmas that my @NiteStar account, which I had carefully curated to within the top 0.1% (or higher) of all Twitter users over quite a number of years, had been permanently shut down, sent my depression into a dovetail. (After a very long struggle, I eventually got my account back around April but my ranking has suffered and I haven't had the time/energy to bring it back up.) But I digress, Twitter account suspension could be an entirely separate article.

But I hadn't been able to get back home to New York, not so much because they've been screwing up her care up here but because things are pretty complicated. Mum is from a so-called third world Asian country, Thailand. She only advanced to a fourth grade education there because the government only paid for four grades at the time (after that, families had to pay and her family couldn't afford the private school fees). As such, mum doesn't understand a lot of what the docs and other medical folks are talking about with her.


Hell, most native-English speaking Americans don't understand what doctors tell them, especially when dealing with complex medical issues like cancer. Add to that her fear of having surgery that's prevented her from having both of her knees replaced (no matter how many doctors tell her it'll make her feel better and no matter how many reassurances we give her, etc.).

Add in her mental health issues like crippling anxiety and panic disorders with cyclothymia, some personality disorders, and OCD, all of which cause memory issues resembling dementia, these further exacerbate dealing with all of mum's other medical issues. To make matters worse, she refuses to accept that treating her mental health issues will make any difference and thus refuses to see a therapist or psychiatrist (her PCP prescribes a few meds that she's been taking for a while).

It doesn't help that I'm dealing with 20 other doctors for her, too. All of these matters make it loads of fun for the whole family because we all know how doctors just love to talk to one another and keep abreast on each other's work regarding their patients. But seriously, it often feels like they always expect you, the patient, to know and keep track of what's going on because while they're supposed to read the reports they send one another over the computer, they never seem to have the time to do that. In all honesty, though, I usually have 3,000 unread emails sitting in my Inbox at any given time, so I can sympathize. But we're talking about people's lives here!. Worst of all, though, is that they never can find those reports when you're sitting there in the exam room.

With mum's language barrier issues, her lack of a formal first-world education, her 21 doctors, and 40-plus medications (I did mention that she takes 38 42 45 46 prescription medications, right?), I shudder to think at how her medical care would have been handled had I not been here to help her get through this. I've been helping her for the past seven or eight years or so. With my knack for utilizing technology, advanced educational background, and "better" upbringing, I'm in a better position than even most of the professional caregivers assigned to provide care for mom.

Mum's doctors often recognize and thank me for being there for her, and for helping them. They recognize that mum is getting better care with me taking her to all of her appointments than had I not been there. And they recognize that they can do their jobs better because I am providing them with all of the information they need to do their jobs, on hand, that they may not readily have on hand or that patients may at times be reluctant to provide. And yes, mum does occasionally become angry with me when I provide what she deems to be too much information to the doctors; however, I know that without that information, they can't do their jobs properly. It's a double-edged sword that comes with mixed emotions.

Additionally, I know how to research what the doctors are saying. Often, I can do that in real-time during the appointments, as they're speaking, on one of the mobile devices that I'm usually toting around with me. I'm able to ask pertinent questions, including inquiring about different treatments, alternative therapies, etc. I would posit that most individuals aren't as proactive with even their own medical care, and most doctors don't give their patients the time to ask questions or mull things over.

And yes, I also do the same during my own medical appointments, of which I've been having more than my fair share, much to my own chagrin. Those appointments have thus far discovered vestibular migraine headaches, a BMI far too high for anyone's (including my own) liking, COPD (which is the result of having grown up in a 3-pack-a-day smoker's household (I never smoked), being morbidly obese, and having asthma), confirmation via triple MRI of severe injuries to my back that is the source of very bad back pains, calcification (deposits?) in my brain, palpitations, elevated blood pressure (but not enough for a diagnosis of hypertension), some dermatological issues including dermatographia, some new allergies, and a few other sordid issues that we haven't addressed and probably a bunch more that we have yet to uncover. 😛

So I started 2017 on a very down note. No Twitter, mom's recurrence of cancer, I had been hospitalized and my physical health issues seemingly doubled (tripled) overnight, it looked like I'd be spending an extended period of time in CT under very stressful conditions, and I was getting an amazing 0.3% raise in my Social Security Disability Income (this amounted to a whopping $4/month!). Just for starters.

As we began mum on the hormonal chemo treatment, her anxiety ran through the roof. Panic attacks became a daily part of life, and cyclothymia blossomed into full-blown bipolar. Her stomach pains were worsening, so she was sent to an oncological surgeon (number of doctors: 22 23), who recommended her gallbladder be removed to prevent possibility of infection, which could result in death given that her hormonal drug treatment (Ibrance/Letrozole) has immunosuppressive properties. Rather than wait for an emergency situation, mum was taken off the Ibrance for four weeks in order to allow the surgery in a controlled manner; however, this allowed her tumors to grow exponentially.

With the Ibrance less effective than before, she was switched to a second treatment (Afinitor/Exemestane) and eventually sent to a radiation oncologist (number of doctors: now 24). Mum went through 28 days of daily radiation (15 minutes of radiation treatment) in May, which brought down the size of some of the bigger tumors but caused severe type 2 radiation burns that took months to heal (more than twice the expected healing time, due in part because of mom's aforementioned difficulties). On top of this, side effects from the radiation treatment and Afinitor caused a 40-pound weight loss, leaving her very weakened.

All of the combined effects led mum to her first-ever overnight hospitalization stay, which she spent at Hartford Hospital. There were a number of issues that took place there (which deserve their own article). Mum's overnight stay lasted for just over two weeks, on five different units. She was seen by a number of specialists. When they finally stabilized her, she was discharged to Avery Heights for rehab, in order to regain her strength. A month after that, she returned home with in-home care.

Mom with her five granddaughters, while at
Avery Heights for rehab after her hospitalization.
At the same time mum went in hospital, I received devastating news from my sister, Jennifer. In short, Jennifer discovered that someone she'd let into her life was, essentially, taking advantage of my eldest niece, Jennal. This triggered a hormonal response inducing early puberty due to these forced premature relations. The even greater problem with this is that, according to Jennal's pediatric neurologists, this was a direct cause of Jennal's seizures to return, once again putting her life in grave jeopardy.

After Jennal's hemispherectomy (which I strongly urge you to read about), she had become relatively seizure-free with appropriate anti-seizure medications. However, she now has seizures whenever she gets her period or becomes stressed, gets upset, etc. Additionally, Jennal, who is very special needs with severe epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and multiple learning disabilities (among other ailments) has been brainwashed by this predatory monster into believing a deranged and psychotic version of reality: that this abominable creature of some 40-plus odd years of existence on our planet was in a "loving relationship" with Jennal, an 11 year old child.

I cannot write any more about this than I have due to the pending criminal case, except to question why Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino Jr. and his office aren't charging the vile manifestation of evil that committed these unspeakable acts against Jennal with more serious felony charges, such as multiple counts of Rape in the First Degree, for which the facts certainly fit the statute, New York Penal Law, Article 130, S 130.35. This way, the dastardly fiend would, upon conviction, be able to be sentenced to multiple, consecutive terms of 20-25 years imprisonment, thus guaranteeing they would never, ever, ev-ah see or smell the fresh air and light of freedom in their life again, even for one quintillionth of one millisecond.

I very much question DA Scarpino's decision in charging the grand jury with the crimes presented. Like most New York district attorneys, they're playing it safe, instead of fighting for justice on behalf of the victims of serious and heinous crimes. Politics has turned district attorneys offices all over the State of New York (and perhaps the nation) into prostrated statisticians who care more about conviction rates than meting out justice. If Hon. Jeanine Ferris Pirro were still the district attorney for Westchester, I don't think she, being such a victim's advocate, would have been so lenient in seeking an indictment from the grand jury. But I digress, this is another article for another time...

As I see the reality of what has happened to my niece grow on her (we video chat), and feel it even more when we visit, my heart sinks further and further. How do I help her? How do I heal her? How can I make it all better for her? How can I make her understand what's happened? Is Jennal even developmentally ready to be able to cope with understanding what's happened to her, or even be able to understand what's happened to her? This last part is slowly, very slowly starting to sink in, as each day crawls by in her mind.

Jennal, dressed for Halloween 2017.
How I wish I had a magic wand I could wave over Jennal to heal the wounds so deeply inflicted upon her. Anyone who meets Jennal would know instantly how much love and joy she has for the world and all things in it. They would question how anyone, how any living person or creature could even think about harming her in any way, least of all by the most vile, personal, and intimate way in which she was so horrendously assaulted in body, mind, and spirit, over the course of more than one year.

I spent the summer attempting to assist and coordinate mom's ever-changing care, in hospital, rehab, and home, assist my father in setting up a new financial consulting business now that he's moved back to the area, deal with the complete clusterfuck of the news my sister uncovered, aid my sister in keeping her family safe until the perpetrator was caught by law enforcement, provide support to my sister, my mother, my brothers, and my father, all whilst attempting to keep to my own medical appointments, and somehow maintain what little sanity I still possessed.

And to top it all off, in the broiling heat of August, I was evicted from my home in New York. Essentially, I hadn't been able to get to my apartment to take care of it. I asked my roommate to do certain things so I could AirB&B my bedroom to be able to pay the rent, as I was staying in CT. And I guess he didn't feel comfortable doing them without my physically being there, so that never got done. I no longer was in a rental assistance program as of the beginning of the year (that's another story for another time), and the full rent wasn't being paid (I don't have $1,000/month for rent).

I couldn't even break away to return to New York during the eviction proceedings because they took place right when mum went in hospital. As such, I was evicted from my apartment, and had to run down to New York on the last weekend in August in order to gather my belongings and shuttle them up and throw them into an overpriced storage unit. I used U-Haul to make the move, and I had terrible experiences with them. I had a friend rent a truck, and I reserved a storage unit for whatever of my belongings I could rescue from my apartment.

I had major problems with both the truck, as well as the storage unit. But I haven't had the time/energy/strength to (a) find another, more affordable storage facility and (b) move my belongings to such a facility. As such, my belongings from New York remain in U-Haul's speciously- and over-priced storage facility down the street here in Hartford.

So during mum's hospitalization, I was dealing with coordinating her medical care in hospital (especially moving from unit to unit), an eviction, and one the most unthinkable things one would ever want to have to think of happening to a younger family member—on top of all the other things in my own life, added to all the everyday things one goes through. I should have gone insane, ten times over.

My Drag Queen Fairy Godmother in Hartford, CT
And it's on that note where HCCP came to my rescue on another front. While volunteering with them last year, I'd made a friend (photo at right) who happens to manage a psychiatric practice (or two?). My friend, who has become somewhat of a mentor to me, had me accepted into the practice, despite their not taking my insurance yet—they're in the process of taking it and will be able to retroactively bill for services. But were it not for this kind and compassionate gesture, were it not for having a therapist and a psychiatrist now, I'm not certain I would have made it through these past twelve months and especially this past summer.

Those who know me know that summers are my least favorite of the seasons. Given that I'm already on a low baseline, this past summer was nearly as stressful as the one after my car accident—perhaps more so, in different ways.

While I haven't been on social media that much (indicating a return to baseline), I have been returning. It's a slow process, though; most days I don't feel like looking at my streams. Or if I do look at my streams, I don't post much or respond to many items. But I every now and then I am moved to do so. Mostly on Twitter. And Google+. I do my best to maintain my LinkedIn account. I tend to post a bit on Pinterest because it's easy. But I've shied away from Facebook. And I still haven't gotten into Instagram. I just don't have the energy to deal with people. I know my depression, anxiety, and stress are still far off the charts. In fact, if we were in the "olden days," I'd be hospitalized for my depression, alone.

However, people today are no longer hospitalized for being chronically depressed, only if they have harmful tendencies, which my medications (and five nieces) keep me from reaching.


But my depression, like most things in life, has an ebb and flow. So about a month ago, I was moved to write a few articles regarding a local election in The Bronx. One of the candidates in this race didn't like what I'd written (speaking #TruthToPower) and went so far as to defame me in response. But you know what they say: if you must resort to argumentum ad hominem (or any logical fallacy, really) rather than responding with facts, then you have no response whatsoever.

I then read about the case of a 67-year old immigrant named Sujitno Sajuti, whom the Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to deport after having spent nearly 40 years in our country. And I felt compelled to write an article about it. Now, I'm finally finishing the article that I began writing earlier this year (that is, the one you're reading now).

But I didn't want to just write an article about myself. I want it to have a purpose, which is one of the reasons why I'm spending so much time writing about my caregiving duties. The other is because in reality, my caregiving duties do actually take up the vast majority of my time. But I do need to bring you up to speed with a few more goings-on in my rollercoaster life:


A few days ago, my sister told me that her cancer is back. This also is her fourth battle with breast cancer. She usually follows my mother two years after, so this is accelerated by about a year. While they both have the same breast cancer gene, they have different variants of it, and my sister's cancer is more menacing in some way, if I were to anthropomorphize it.

Mum has new tumors growing and appearing in her body. The Afinitor/Exemestane isn't working well, and she needs something that will work better. I'm investigating using marijuana to treat cancer. Mum's oncologist has approved doing this, provided that mum also continues with her "traditional" treatments. So mum is certified by her doctor (although there are additional steps that must be taken to get the actual card, which costs $125), but I'm getting conflicting information on just how to use marijuana to treat breast cancer. Again, she's ER+ PR+ HER2- BRCA1+. I need to know what the ratio of THC:CBD should be, and what dosage (in mg) she needs to take in order to fight her cancer.

Mum is on social security and doesn't have much money. One answer I was given to treat her cancer with medical marijuana was $50,000—and that doesn't even include ongoing maintenance (to prevent the cancer from returning) for the rest of her life, which would be about $1,000/month! That's not affordable for us (and I'd presume many other cancer patients), as much as I'd like it to be. I couldn't even imagine doing a GoFundMe campaign to raise that kind of money to pay such a medical treatment. (Yet another reason universal healthcare is a good option.)

All of the this boils down to a few things.

Ranking of Top 11 Healthcare Systems by Country
Healthcare in the United States of America is broken beyond repair. We need a new system, one that's radically different from the one we have now. It needs to be simple, easy to administer, accessible to everyonesupportive of everyone, and flexible and open so that new technologies can easily and readily be incorporated and made available to those who need them.

Medicare4All may or may not be the answer. But something similar to that probably is the way to go. The United States is woefully behind the rest of the industrialized world in providing human services such as healthcare, childcare, eldercare, etc. You can't fix a system that is designed to benefit only a few, that by its very design works only for a handful of people. The only way to fix our human care services in this country is to step outside of the box, rip them down, and build them back up, from scratch.

Next, we need to ensure that those caring for loved ones are receiving the support and care they need, whatever care that is. My family does what they can to help and support me in my caregiving duties, particularly with respect to mum. But it's not enough. I need answers that I'm not getting or can't find, especially with respect to the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for breast cancer. The research isn't out there because the US Government still treats and classifies marijuana as class 1, the most dangerous category of drugs.

Additionally, there are things that I simply cannot physically do, so they're just not getting done. And mum just goes on and on about them, every single day. Repeatedly. Hour after hour. Sometimes, nonstop. I'm not in a position, financially, to do certain things, some of which are health-related. And others are things I'd just like to do. And all of this just stresses me the fuck out.

For instance, there's a weight-loss medication that my doctor believes will work for me, Qsymia. It isn't covered by my insurance (Medicare doesn't cover any weight-loss treatments except some surgeries), and it costs $196 per month—a price I certainly can't afford as it would eat up more than 13% of my monthly SSDI income. Qsymia's maker, Vivus, offers a discount savings program, but not for those of us who are on Medicare or Medicaid (and it only shaves $65 off the monthly price). So either way, I'd still be screwed.

What all of this has done is force me to do something I do my absolute best to avoid: admit that I need help. I need help caring for my mother from someone who's not in my family. I need help getting her apartment organized. I need help caring for my sister and her daughters. Oh, and did I mention that there also were "grooming" behaviours uncovered that were taking place with my sister's three other, much younger daughters? I need help caring for the rest of my family. And I need help caring for ... myself.

I need to get the right information on exactly how to use medical marijuana to treat breast cancer, both for my sister (who's triple-negative) as well as my mother. And then we need help paying for it, because insurance doesn't cover medical marijuana for any reason, and we can't afford it. The only two women in my immediate family are both, right now, fighting metastatic breast cancer for the fourth time, and I refuse to let either of them fall victim to that disease.

Fuck Cancer
As someone who is disabled, I need assistance. I need housing (technically, I'm homeless and just staying with mum, who has a Section 8 voucher that I cannot be included on, and I don't  know why as I am her immediate family). I need help with housekeeping duties. I need help getting out into the community. I need help getting to appointments. I'd like to become more active in the community. But I feel like I've just given birth. I don't want to move. I'm in constant pain. I just want to sleep.

As a person living in the 21st century, I need another 42 hours in my 24-hour day, as well as a few clones of myself who are all connected to me and can feed information into my brain, on-demand.

I recently had my 44th Birthday. (I'll never complain about receiving a late birthday present, and i'ts never too early to shop for the holidays; my Amazon profile has a few wish lists) And for the first time, I'm admitting my actual age. Palindromic numbers have always felt special to me. I'm hoping that this year is full of magic and beauty. I don't know what to expect, which makes me uneasy. And, I'm scared. But with all of you, my friends and family who "live online," I know I'll get through it. (Of course, this probably should be yet another article...)

Speaking of birthdays, I'd really appreciate your help with a project that I'm working on regarding people's views on aging. I have a quick survey (about 12 questions) to gather their views. I'd really appreciate it if you would fill it out. If you could ask all of your friends to do the same, that would be really super. You can use the following link when sharing the survey with others: https://goo.gl/forms/WC9ngn9YJnhtNllD2

Age isn't the only topic that I'm' gathering people's views and opinions on. Do you feel that you have everything you need to get through your day? Your week? Your month? Or are there things that you need? If you're a caregiver who is overwhelmed, I'd especially be interested in hearing from you.

Let me know how you feel in the comments, below.

Until next time...

My eternal thanks to my dear friend Xander Rühl, who as usual helps to proofread many of my articles, including this one. :)

10 October 2017

Why is ICE Deporting Law-Abiding Immigrants Like Sujitno Sajuti Who Have Been Living Here For Decades?

At 9am today, 68 year-old West Hartford resident Sujitno Sajuti must check in with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at JFK Airport in New York City to be deported back to his home country of Indonesia—a land he hasn't seen in nearly 40 years. A practicing Muslim, Sajuti has no ties to any family there, no assets, no anything.
Mr. Sujitno Sajuti
I have been living here for almost four decades—nearly forty years, more than half my life. If I am sent back to my native country, I wouldn't even recognize it. I have nothing there, I know no one. All my assets are here, in this country. I would have no money, no house, no retirement, no income, no jobs, no pension, no family, no friends, no medical, nothing. I would be an outcast, due to my failure [in completing my PhD program]...
I would not be able to help anyone, as I do here. My wife and I enjoy, so much, helping people in our community. I could not work, due to forced retirement age. I would be useless, just sit in my house, do nothing. If even I could find a house to live in. What sort of life is that? That is not a life worth living...
I do not understand why your government hates me so much. Why they want to send me back after all these so many years? Why now when I have made such a life for myself here? Why send me back when I have been gone so long that I would be a stranger in a strange land? Why, why, why they want to do this to me?
Sajuti was invited to this country in 1981 to attend Columbia University as a Fulbright Scholar. He completed that program in 1984 and was awarded a Masters in Public Health, the second advanced degree of his educational career. Sajuti received his first masters in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Indonesia in 1979. After completing his studies at Columbia, he returned to Indonesia for a short while but soon found himself back in the USA in other educational endeavors.

Like many Indonesians, Sajuti views education as a life-long pursuit. So in 1989, he began studies at UCONN, Storrs under the US AID program, under which he entered into a joint MA/PhD program in applied medical anthropology. He completed and received his master's degree from the joint degree program. Indeed, the UCONN 1993 Commencement Program shows on page 44 that a Sujitno Sajuti was graduated from The Graduate School with a Master of Arts in Anthropology in December 1992.

However, Sajuti ran into a serious problem and nearly starved to death with the the doctoral side of his degree: UCONN rescinded their scholarship without giving him either a reason or an explanation for their actions. Sajuti couldn't work under his student visa and he had no money. It took more than six months to resolve the scholarship snafu, and he went days without eating. There were programs in his government that could have covered his expenses but UCONN was withholding paperwork required to apply to those programs, despite his government requesting copies of such papers, according to Sajuti.

What's worse is that during this same time period, Sajuti's doctoral program advisor took early retirement, unbeknownst to him. When he finally was able to return to his studies at UCONN and learned of this setback, Sajuti was unable to find a new advisor to complete his PhD program. While he successfully completed all of the coursework required for his doctoral degree, he has been unable to find an advisor to oversee his dissertation.

To this day, he still has been unable to find a new advisor, and he has never given up looking for one. At the age of 68, he says that he would return to school "in a heartbeat" if he could find an advisor so that he would be able to complete his doctoral program and receive his PhD.

Yazmin Rodriguez, Esq.
"What happened to Mr. Sajuti during his studies at UCONN in the [19]90s might be grounds to file a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider, but we need additional details and more information, especially as this all took place so long ago," Yazmin Rodriguez, Esq., an attorney familiar with Sajuti's case explained. Ms. Rodriguez is the owner of Esperanza Center for Law & Advocacy, a boutique law firm specializing in immigration defense cases. She continued, "There might be something in the paper trail that could remove the case from ICE's jurisdiction and place it back with the court."

Sajuti's student visa was valid until 1996, so between 1993 and then he finished the coursework required for his doctorate, did some work tutoring other students to supplement his income to survive, and attempted to find a new advisor for his dissertation.
I never thought about [getting a green card] because only I wanted to finish my studies. I only thought about a green card in 1996 when I realized my visa was going to expire. I contacted my country to resolve the issues with my studies because I wanted to complete them, and it was then that Indonesia attempted to bring me home. Instead, I chose to remain here in USA, hoping to complete my studies in the future.
The reasoning behind this is more complicated than what lies on the surface and delves into a dark societal secret in many Asian cultures—issues that would pop and sizzle to an anthropological student like Sajuti. In many Asian cultures like in Indonesia, failure is perhaps one of the worst of the "sins" one can commit—far worse than rape or even murder. 

A child's failure can have lasting repercussions on their family and society, who turn against and shun the one who failed, who often is seen as bringing dishonor and disgrace upon the entire family. In some cultures, the dishonor and disgrace can extend beyond the family to the entire village. Simply put, failure just isn't an option. The Harvard Business Review lists failure, and more specifically the fear and culture around failure, as the first thing that must be eliminated in order to improve innovation in Asian society. Even reaching out for help can be seen as an act of dishonor to one's family.

Rabbi Sacks explains,
The biggest difference is that in shame cultures, if we’re caught doing wrong, there’s a stain on our character that only time can erase... guilt cultures make a sharp distinction between the doer and the deed, the sinner and the sin. That’s why guilt cultures focus on atonement and repentance, apology and forgiveness. The act was wrong, but on our character there’s no indelible stain.
When Sajuti decided to risk being captured and remain in the USA after his student visa expired in 1996, the stain of his failure was what was on his mind. He literally was scared to death to return home to Indonesia, where he would have been ostracized and shunned by his family. The closest analogy to how he would have been treated is how unwed, teenaged mothers were treated a century ago—only Sajuti's fate, as a man, would have been far, far worse.

In Asian cultures such as Indonesia, shame and the fear of shame have been traced as the cause for the lack of innovation in technology, absence of the startup business sector in Asia, and the inability of many Asians to ask for help—especially in seeking help for mental health issues. Fear of failure has exerted unnecessary and undue stress on countless Asian students. This is because, "Failure is hard to accept in Asian cultures. Failure makes individuals feel guilty and shameful," remarks Assunta Ng.

Furthermore, the penalty for failure in many Asian societies, ostracization, has recently been found to have long-lasting consequences:

Some call it the “social death penalty.” It’s the feeling of being a pariah, of being shunned, ignored by the group, or given the silent treatment. It can mean anything from physical exile to subtle forms of psychological isolation. Whatever you call it, ostracism is a ghastly form of hurt.
You might think bullying is worse than ostracism, but recent research suggests that being frozen out is actually more painful. From social exclusion on the playground to being ignored in the workplace, ostracism is among the most devastating experiences we can endure, deeply connected to our most fundamental human need to be recognized and accepted. Ostracism can reshape the human brain, and in extreme cases, even make a person want to go on a killing spree.
In 1996, with the decision made to remain in the USA rather than face the societal punishment of ostracization from his failed educational studies (which most likely would have started first from his own family before spreading outward into society), he and his wife began to build a life together here. He applied for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (a green card) but his application was turned down. He did, however, receive a work permit.

Over the next several years, Sajuti worked at various jobs, mostly teaching in his community and working in various community stores and markets, where he was the victim of armed robberies. When he wasn't working he volunteered his time to teach all members in the community, from youths to adults.
I realized the difficulty of people to get citizenship, to get GED, so whatever I can do to help people is what I did. I was surprised when somebody can talk back to you in the street but doesn't know how to spell in English. They didn't know mathematics and science. I have home-school a number of students. Within three months I have been able to get children to move up an entire grade. 
I've seen that there is a need for me to be here. And I receive help from my students as well. It's a symbiotic relationship, even though I feel that I give more than I receive. But I'm more than ok with that. I teach at home school, substitute teaching, tutoring, religious studies, interfaith religious studies, mathematics, science, social sciences, English, GED, citizenship. Anything to help people who need the help.
Sajuti's contributions to the community haven't gone unnoticed. David McGuire, the executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, praised Sajuti, "Mr. Sajuti has been an activist with the ACLU of Connecticut and other organizations in the state. We know him as a thoughtful voice for liberty, justice, and equality and a dedicated member of the Connecticut community."

Sujitno Sajuti (l) and US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (r)
Photo Credit: Rev. Josh Pawelek
United States Senator Richard Blumenthal echoed similar sentiments:
I personally met Mr. Sajuti, who has been a positive asset to the Hartford community for decades—earning friends and respect through his dedicated community service. He was rightfully granted a stay of deportation in 2012 and has dutifully remained in contact with immigration officials since then.
Imam Kashif Abdul Karim of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford met Sajuti 15 years ago when he became imam of the Greater Hartford region. Imam Kashif vouched for Sajuti's status as a pillar of the community, describing him as "a hands-on person, someone who likes to go in there and get things done. He's an organizer, a problem-solver, and he's extremely intelligent."

Despite Sajuti's good standing within the community, It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the plight of immigrants in our great nation that this is not the first—or even the second—time that the US Government has tried to deport Sajuti, on more than one occasion:
All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service [sic] they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.
The above statement was issued by a President during his State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress. You more astute readers will know that these remarks couldn't possibly belong to our current President Donald J. Trump because he has yet to deliver his first SOTU. So then, you say to yourself, it must be President Bush, right? If you were on a trivia game show then you would hear the sound of a buzzer and be declared absolutely 100% wrong!

Watch below to find out which President delivered these remarks. And pay particularly close attention to the end of the video. Notice what happens. I've already told you that this is a US President delivering a SOTU address, so watch who delivers the most support and applause to this President's remarks.


As can be seen from the above video, it was President William Jefferson Clinton who uttered those words. President Clinton was acting on the recommendations of the immigration commission chaired by Congresswoman Jordan, whom he appointed, and that is precisely the moment in time when there was a seismic shift in American immigration policy. We went from being a nation welcoming of immigrants to one where we hunt them down and deport them.

Fellow progressives, take note: Republican President Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to more than 3 million immigrants in 1986, allowing them to become citizens. And Republican President George H.W. Bush vastly expanded the immigration program, increasing quotas, allowing for family members to be granted visas, created the work visa, and also allowed for the issuance of work permits for those immigrants who were unable to gain legal status.

And then we have neoliberal Democratic President Bill Clinton, who "moved aggressively to secure our borders" and began deporting "illegals." Even the name of the law changed, from an "Immigration Reform and Control Act" to an "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act" The new immigration laws actually reduced the number of immigrants allowed into the country, significantly cutting the numbers down from those enacted under President George H.W. Bush. And it prioritized deportation, significantly ramping up the country's deportation efforts, and adding the funding to back those efforts up.

So in 1996 when Sajuti's student visa expired and he applied for LPR status, he was instead given a deportation notice, in line with the Jordan Commission's recommendations. One of the most significant changes of the 1996 immigration legislation is that it retroactively expands the list of crimes qualifying an immigrant to be deported as an "aggravated felon," among them, failure to appear in court. Thankfully, Sajuti was able to obtain a stay of deportation, as well as a work permit.

Because Sajuti is a peaceful, law-abiding person and not a criminal, his deportation wasn't a high priority for ICE. At least for a few years...

When President Trump spoke about requiring Muslims living in our country to register with the government (as then-candidate Trump), what he may not have known is that had actually already taken place, and Sajuti complied with that directive. In 2002-2003 during the Bush (43) administration, our government required special registration of "all male foreign visitors, already in the U.S., aged 16 and older[,] from specified countries to register at designated immigration offices within a given time period." The program was discontinued at the end of 2003.

As a result of that process, an immigration judge issued an order of removal, which was stayed. Sajuti was allowed to remain in the country, under the same conditions as before. He was to check in with ICE annually, and have his work permit renewed annually. And he did that faithfully, each and every year. ICE left him alone, either ignoring him or losing track of his paperwork.

That is until 2012 when the Obama administration released new guidelines for ICE to focus on deportations targeting terrorists and criminals. Somehow, ICE officials removed Sajuti from his home and took him to a detention center in Massachusetts where he remained for 63 days, despite Sajuti being neither a terrorist nor a criminal.

After a strong outcry from his local community, he eventually was released, with a stay of deportation, and allowed to return to his life once again, where he continued to teach, volunteer for his community, and improve and enrich the lives of those whose paths he crossed.

Imam Kashif
Imam Kashif
Such as the work he does as a board member on the non-profit organization Hello! West Hartford, dedicated to connecting its community through culture and language. Or the interfaith outreach efforts he engages in, which lead other religious organizations to advocate for his release when he was detained by ICE. Or his advocacy for educational funding, health care access, immigration reform, and other justice issues, as well as championing of interfaith dialogue, cultural understanding, and mutual respect.
Sujitno is such a part of our community, it would be a tremendous loss to us if he were deported. He is irreplaceable. Who could we find to do all that he does? Any time someone has been that involved with the community for that long, he would be irreplaceable. He's been around since the 80s. He's been around since before I was. And I am not speaking just about our Mosque, but all of his students, the immigration community, the people he helps get GEDs, the people he helps with citizenships, the children and adults he tutors and teachers. So many people he helps, he would no longer be there for them, for us. It is unthinkable, Imam Kashif tearfully pondered.
"It's our job to do a full screening of our clients to ensure that there's nothing that we haven't overlooked, especially with clients who have been here for decades," Rodriguez offered as she described the immigration attorney's role. In cases such as Sajuti's, they attorney acts as a mixture of chronologer, historian, and private investigator, all in order to must come up with intelligent, reasonable legal strategies on behalf of their client. As such, they must examine every aspect of their client's lives, leaving no stone unturned. She cautions how difficult this can be, especially with clients who have been here for multiple decades, as memories get clouded and documents are misplaced, lost, or destroyed.

Indeed, the immigration lawyer's task is quite difficult, and has become increasingly so with each administration. Ever since President Clinton took our nation in a new direction with regard to immigration policy, each successive administration has augmented these draconian policies. It is merely Sajuti's bad luck to have lived in this country through all four administrations that are determined to transform our great nation, which once welcomed immigrants with open arms, into one that makes a profit by throwing them out.

If only Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) were here. Well, President Bush is still with us, and he has criticized some of the new GOP in a book that was published a few years ago, Destiny and Power. I can only imagine the tongue-lashing those two Republican Presidents would have, if healthy and able-minded, given to their successors. But I digress.

Connecticut's Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman
Outraged over the state of this "immigration policy" Connecticut's Lt. Gov,Nancy S. Wyman, protested,
We cannot allow this to happen, in a country of welcoming Americans. We are the best country in the world. We were brought up that not one person, not one religion, not one color … we made this country great because it’s all of us! For centuries, immigrants have made this country stronger, lending their labor, service, and love to an ideal – and all the people who share this ideal. It’s our turn now to protect that path for those who want to contribute to our nation, those who already consider themselves Americans, but for where they were born.
Alok Bhatt is a member of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA), a statewide alliance of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business, and ally organizations founded to improve the lives of Connecticut’s diverse immigrant community. CIRA has been working non-stop to prevent Sajuti's deportation. He agreed with Lt. Gov. Wyman's position:
Whether or not someone has a criminal record should not be a determining factor on deportation status. Granting a stay is up to the individual ICE officer. There's no logic as to why this is happening to Sujitno. It's completely discretionary. This is another form of state violence against people of color and an example of how our government exhibits Islamaphobia, racism, xenophobia, it's a consequence of violent prejudices our nation was founded on and continues to develop, unfortunately.
The ACLU-CT's McGuire concurred with similar sentiments, "A federal immigration policy that prioritizes deporting Sujitno Sajuti is not a policy that reflects American values. Tearing him away from his home, family, and friends is cruel. We call on those with the power to stop his removal to do so immediately, and we stand with him in solidarity."

Senator Blumenthal lashed out at President Trump, blaming him for Sajuti's predicament. But as we discovered above, this situation can be traced back to President Clinton:
Mr. Sajuti is yet another example of a Trump deportation machine that has lost all sense of reason and rationality. There is absolutely no reason why we should expend taxpayer dollars deporting Mr. Sajuti. I am working closely with Mr. Sajuti and advocates to do all I can to keep him home in Hartford where he belongs.
Alex Meyerovich
Alex Meyerovich is an immigration attorney who stepped forward a few weeks ago and agreed to represent Sajuti pro bono. He believes very strongly that a grave injustice is being carried out, and he couldn't agree more with the sentiments expressed by CIRA, Lt. Gov. Wyman, the ACLU-CT, and others. But he takes umbrage with Senator Blumenthal's statement, at least the end of it:
I reached out to both of our Senators from Connecticut to seek their help for Mr. Sajuti. [Senator Chris] Murphy's office didn't seem the slightest bit interested in the case. [Senator Richard] Blumenthal's office was much more receptive, as he had helped him in the past. However, it didn't appear to be a priority for the Senator, as the office was focused on the disaster in Puerto Rico. I can understand that we have many residents here from Puerto Rico who have relatives there, but we also have residents here in Connecticut who are in dire straits and need help from him, now.  
At this point, I doubt the Senator will be able to do anything. What can he do, have a talk with the head of ICE? He'll just say hey, I have a new boss now, sorry. And because he basically ignored us when he could have made a difference, we're out of luck now. I filed a motion for a stay of deportation last Wednesday, and on Friday I received a call from an ICE officer, the stay was denied. So, there are no more legal options for Mr. Sajuti. I know some of those officers at ICE don't like doing their job. I swear, the officer who called to let me know the motion was denied, he sounded like he was going to tell me a relative had died. But they do what they have to do, I understand that, it's their job.
Shawn Neudauer, the Public Affairs Officer for the local ICE Area of Responsibility office covering Connecticut, would agree with that assessment. He issued the following statement after inquiries were made into Sajuti's case:
Sujitno Sajuti is an illegally present citizen of Indonesia who entered the U.S. legally in 1989, but overstayed his lawful visit by several years. A federal immigration judge issued him a final order of removal in October 2003. In an exercise of discretion ICE chose not to place Mr. Sajuti into custody and has allowed him ample time, and numerous stays of removal, to pursue legal options to resolve his case. He has since exhausted these options and in August he was given instruction to provide evidence he intends to depart the United States in compliance with the judge’s removal (deportation) order. He has done this and rather than place him in custody, ICE placed him on a GPS monitoring program pending his departure from the country.
Renata Castro, Esq.
Renata Castro, Esq., an immigration attorney originally from Brazil who, like Sajuti, dedicates much of her life to the Floridian community in which she lives, disagrees with ICE's assessment of Sajuti's legal position. According to Castro, the difficulty Sajuti had with his studies at UCONN could be cause to reopen the case and seek a review, as he would have been able to maintain lawful nonimmigration status for the duration of his stay. Ineffective assistance of counsel (Sajuti has had 23 lawyers in the three plus decades he has been living here) is another legal strategy that could be pursued;
If some kind of asylum claim has been made, it is likely that the immigration attorney would have petitioned for CAT protection. CAT, short for Convention Against Torture, allows an individual to stay in the USA with the ability to work lawfully; however, the protection not is designed to merely keep him here but to grant any kind of protection or to allow his free entry into the USA should he choose/have to depart. Mr. Sujitno does not have family members in the USA who could be used as qualifying relatives (such as a mother, father, wife, husband, or children), who would be anchors in a request for cancellation of removal [Ed: while Sajuti has a wife, she is also undocumented and therefore does not qualify to serve as an anchor for him]. Immigration has no heart, and in most part, USCIS only looks to challenges imposed to family members of the immigrant who are US Citizens or green card holders, not necessarily the hardships imposed on the immigrant himself.
Bhatt also questioned ICE's claims about Sajuti having exhausted all of his options, "Saying he's exhausted all of his options is bull. I don't think anyone ever filed a BIA [Board of Immigration Appeals] or 2nd Circuit Appeal for [Sajuti]. This is classic 'blame the victim' nonsense. They're just pushing back, they don't want to be seen as buckling under pressure."

If an asylum claim could be made for Sajuti, there could be numerous grounds. First, there is the ostracization he would face for his failure to complete his education. Next, there is the hardening of Indonesia's Islamic culture toward a much more conservative, patriarchal, less enlightened path, e.g., recent attempts to cleanse LGBT-related content from society. Next, there is his age to consider; at 68, he would be under forced retirement. Without being able to work, he would have no source of income. Indonesia affords no retirement benefits to its citizens. There is no care for its elders except what families provide. As he has no family to take care of him there, he would be at the mercy of the streets.
Sujitno Sajuti in his West Hartford, CT home
The special registration by which Sajuti was subjected in 2003, which ultimately resulted in the final order of deportation against him, could be another point of contention. Many civil libertarians and patriots alike balked at the mere thought of President Trump instituting such a list. The registration was not well-publicized when it was in effect in 2002-3, except perhaps in the Muslim community. But it may very well have been an unconstitutional exercise of the government's power. If that's the case, then everything Sajuti has been through could be rolled back. However, without knowing what his previous attorneys have done, it would not be possible to raise the issue now.

What many don't realize is the path to obtaining LPR status is nearly impossible, especially for those who overstay their visas. There quite literally is no option for them to secure a green card. The best they can do is what Sajuti did, receive a stay of deportation, report to ICE on an annual basis, and receive a work permit that entitles the immigrant to earn a living and file taxes.

However, as Castro points out, while immigrants pay all of the taxes that citizens do, they do not receive any of the benefits from paying those taxes, and that includes the forfeiture of social security retirement and Medicare benefits to which they otherwise would be entitled.

Sajuti's is a very complicated case. It spans many decades. The file is incomplete. There have been numerous attorneys who have worked on it over the years, as he wasn't always able to pay their fees and would have to find new attorneys. There were multiple attempts by him to gain LPR status, as well as multiple attempts by ICE to deport him. And nobody is giving up on Sajuti, least of all himself.
What don't you understand about legal immigration?
Prior to the 2003 special registration, Sajuti applied for an adjustment of his status, to LPR. However, he never heard from ICE until 2004. There was some sort of mix-up in the paperwork. Either ICE held onto the paperwork, or they had his wrong address, or his attorney didn't process a form, or something. But somewhere in there, there was a screwup. As a result, he was notified one year after the deadline of a form he had to submit. According to Sajuti, this was never investigated.
I still would like to become a citizen. I dream about this. I want also to continue my education and finish my PhD. Perhaps I will be able to do this now with an online University. But only if I am able to remain here in America, not if I am sent back to Indonesia. In Indonesia I will have nothing, I will be nothing. Here, I am teacher, part of a community. I can help people here, help to make the world more peaceful, more understanding.
Sajuti isn't the only one hoping. His attorney, Meyerovich, filed a FOIA request to obtain Sajuti's case file from ICE. After reviewing the entire file, he will be in a better position to determine the next best course of action.
Mr. Sajuti is out of legal options at this time. But that doesn't mean he's out of options. He is supposed to report to JFK at 9am this morning, with a ticket to Indonesia. But he could, as others have done, seek sanctuary in a mosque. If he does this, it buys us more time. I would be able to look at his file. And others would be able to exert pressure on ICE to allow grant him a stay of deportation, which puts us back into this same situation, which we can revisit next year. But that is better than where we are now. Putting pressure on ICE is, at this point, probably the most productive approach.
ICE is bent on sending this almost 70 year old man back to Indonesia, and for what? This case is the most extreme highlight I have seen of what's going on with the immigration system right now. The government is spending incredible effort on people who should be left alone, people who are living their lives peacefully, within the law, like when ICE was following parents to the hospital so they could grab the parents after their child got out of surgery and remove them from the country. Why, what is their reason for such heartless brutality?
Indeed, a quick trip around the web will find countless stories of such unfathomable actions by ICE, removing standup members of the community from their homes, their families, and their communities and sending them off to lands they haven't seen in decades in what seemingly are completely arbitrary decisions. After all, they've been in our country for decades, why deport them now?


There are many ways to exert pressure on ICE. One is to hold rallies, such as the one in the video above that was held on October 5th. I've set it to start halfway through Sajuti's speech; you can rewind it to watch the entire rally, which is only half an hour long, should you wish to do so.

You also can write letters to ICE officials and elected officials. Physical letters (you know, the kind you write with a pen and paper, although a letter printed from a computer and signed by pen is an acceptable substitute) are best, and should be sent to:

Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director
U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th St., SW
Washington, D.C. 20536

Keep your elected officials engaged, as well. Remember, it was a Democratic president who turned us down this path (as well as down the path of welfare reform, and criminal justice reform, but let's save those topics for another time; I've found that there's only so much self-flagellation the corporatist Democrats can take). And there were nearly as many Democrats who voted for the bill in Congress as who voted against it, in both cases, only four more Democrats voted against the bill in the House of Representatives and four more Democrats voted against the bill in the Senate.

Sujitno Sajuti (r) with his wife, 
I feel a need to repeat this, because I apparently am not always clear in my writing and also have been told that I assume too much about my readers: Sajuti received a valid work permit, with a valid social security number, directly from the United States Government (ICE). The social security number is valid, as it was issued by the US government and was not stolen. Sajuti filed a tax return every year. He has paid taxes, just like any citizen. 

Sajuti has had federal, state, and FICA (social security and Medicare) taxes withheld from each of his paychecks, using the social security number that the US government assigned to him. He applied multiple times for LPR and citizenship but there is no legal path to either of those for people in Sajuti's position. It is impossible to get LPR status or become a citizen without a sponsor already living in the country, and that sponsor must either be a first-degree relative or a suitable employer under one of the five categories of employment visas.

And that brings us back to the present moment. Right now, at this very minute, people are in a great deal of pain. The capricious manner by which ICE is choosing to deport immigrants is causing much despair within the immigrant community. In closing, Sujitno delivered these remarks in a conversation that was poignant and gut-wrenching, leaving a large hole in my stomach:
I am going to pray but praying doesn't mean anything if you don't take action. But you have to be careful with action because it can have repercussions, so you have to be careful. 
This, here, is my home for a long time. I've known these people, I feel a deep connection. I have adopted children here, a community family. I don't know why the government doesn't like me. I haven't done anything. I don't have an aggressive behavior. I always have tried to work together with people, even if I don't like it.
My dream job would be something helping people, working in an office but still having freedom, maybe as a consultant in health, education, economy, government, doing policy analysis. Something like that. I do not think I would ever run for political office. That would be my wife, she would be more adept for that. [he laughs]
People at the top forget about doing good things for others. They forget that it's a combination between their duties and what's in your heart. Be a wise person. Be intelligent but also be wise, be kind but in real ways.
If I can stay here, I will not retire. I will continue doing the things I have been doing in the community and so forth until I can no longer do them. It is that simple. 
It is my greatest hope, yes, I would like to become a citizen, very much. And most of all, my greatest dream, I wish to finish my PhD. And after that, then perhaps I will start a new studies, a second doctorate. It is never too late.
I am positive and hope for the best. We cannot be any other way. Never give up. You cannot give up, ever. Never give up. Never give up.
At 68 years old, on the verge of being deported to a country he hasn't seen in nearly 40 years, Sajuti isn't cursing out the government. Rather, he's thinking about becoming a citizen here, of completing his education, and spending his remaining time on earth here, in the community he calls home, with the people he considers to be his family.

If only American citizens themselves were half as much a citizen as Sujitno Sajuti is now, without the legal status of being one.


UPDATE @ 4:40 PM: Sajuti did not appear at JFK this morning to depart to Indonesia. Instead, he has decided to seek sanctuary in a church. According to Patch, a hyperlocal news website, Sajuti took refuge at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden, CT early this morning. NBC Connecticut News reports that the church decided last month to become a sanctuary location for immigrants, and it has the “full support of their regional leadership” in granting Sajuti sanctuary.

This article was also published by The Huffington Post.

(A very special thank you to my fellow Berner and fantabulous friend Julie Maahs, who provided some fantabulous last-minute proofreading and editing assistance for me!)