Twelve Reasons to Abolish C.B.P. & I.C.E.
When my father arrived
in this country, the first words
he learned in English were:
—to the Latina
who sat beside him
—to the snickered whispers
he chose to ignore & the broad-
jawed bruiser who pretended
his Colombian immigrant
classmate did not exist:
—to the mentors who
combed through line after
line of a language that felt
to his tongue like braille
to my hands:
A father of two delivers a pizza
to a military base in Brooklyn.
The military police officer who
ordered it demands the father’s
When the deliveryman refuses,
the police officer calls I.C.E.
Some soldiers at Fort Hamilton
ordered a pizza. It had pepperoni,
green peppers, onions, I’m lying, who
cares? It was a pizza that might
cost a father his family—the only tip
the soldier gave was a phone call
that risked making two little girls
The first journalist allowed to enter Casa Padre
calls the detention center an internment camp:
nearly 1,500 undocumented children locked up
in an abandoned Wal-Mart, having committed
no crime but crossing a border to survive.
3 . The five year-old boy who shares
my name: Carlos, taken from his mother
in Missouri & put up for adoption
against her wishes, now renamed Jamison
by the couple who stole him.
3 . The pregnant women detained by I.C.E.
shackled around the stomach & denied
medical care while they miscarry.
The honors chemistry textbook
at my public high school was missing
one-third of the elements of the periodic
table; my English teacher would return
papers with red wine stains & reeking
of weed smoke; 60,000 bridges in our
country are architecturally deficient—Is there nothing
else we can do with this money?
5 . The former chief counsel of I.C.E. who stole the identities
of immigrants seeking asylum, a man who forged documents
with the photograph of a murdered woman.
List of present-day U.S. states that were part of México
before 1848: California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona,
close to half of New Mexico, a quarter of Colorado,
& part of Wyoming.
Piles of confiscated rosaries
in Brownsville, Texas—like piles
of wedding rings & gold
dental fillings at Buchenwald. I imagine
them hovered over someday
by trauma tourists muttering:
Never Again—again & again
The son of a Syrian refugee invented
your iPhone. A Soviet-born computer scientist
invented Google. Even basketball was created
by a Canadian.
9 . Most terrorist attacks in the United States
over the past two decades have been carried out
by white American men. Most terrorist attacks
over the past two hundred years in the United States
have been carried out by white American men.
I have never seen a news headline calling
a white American man a terrorist.
Border Patrol agents encounter a father, mother
& their three year-old son from Honduras
entering the U.S. across the border with Texas.
The family asks to apply for asylum.
The C.B.P. officers say the family must be
separated, physically restrain the father, tearing
his three year-old son from his arms.
They place the father in a chain-link detention
cell, then move him forty miles away to solitary
confinement at Starr County Jail. At 9:50am
the next morning a guard finds the father
lying in his own blood, having strangled himself
with a piece of his clothing.
The father’s name was Marco Antonio Muñoz.
The father was the same age I will be when
my son is three. His name was Marco Antonio
Muñoz. His death was not publicly disclosed
…it did not appear in any local news accounts.*
11 . José: the five year-old carrying a trash bag of dirty clothes
& a stick figure drawing of his parents, taken from his family.
11a. The seven year-old girl in a pink bow & dress, left behind
after her parents were deported.
11b. Johan: the one year-old, playing with a purple ball
& drinking from a bottle, appearing in court without his father.
11c. The three year-old, separated from her family, climbing
on top of the desk during her deportation trial.
11d. The infant from Honduras pulled from his mother’s breast
mid-feeding, separated from his mother.
11e. The special needs’ child, separated from her mother.
11f. The deaf child who is not able to speak, separated from his mother.
11g. [ ]
11h. [ ]
11i. [ ]
Upon whose bones
do we stand?
*Miroff, Nick. “A family was separated at the border, and this distraught father took his own life.” The Washington Post, 9 June 2018. Accessed 9 June 2018.
This poem was originally inspired by the family separation crisis, especially the countless stories coming from our border with México. More than that though, my piece is inspired by the way our country has treated immigrants and refugees since its inception. It is inspired by that two-way mirror of the American ethos, how high-minded rhetoric belies a litany of horrors inextricable from our national identity.