TNC INTERVIEW 2019
"...just knowing that at any moment your family could be separated it's, it's always a scary thought but at the same time, we have to work we have to go to school we have to do everything that all of our neighbours are doing."
Cristian Padilla Romero
After Cristian Padilla Romero, a history PhD student at Yale University, went public about a very personal matter the outpouring of support has been immense. His mother's Tania Romero, currently in an ICE Detention Centre, is in a desperate fight from deportation. Their story has gone viral with The New Yorker & NYT both running pieces about Cristian and his mother and through Cristian's GoFundMe page he's gained global attention for their cause.
What has upset a lot of people has been the knowledge that for the past two months Tania Romero, being in an ICE Detention Centre, is also in remission from Stage 4 Cancer.
There has been some good news for both Cristian and Tania as Democratic Representative Lucy McBath is set to meet with the ICE officials in the coming week to discuss Tania's case.
Hi Cristian, thank you for talking to TNC, how are you keeping?
I don't know, it's hard to answer. I think it's definitely a hard question but I mean, I think the situation in my mom is in is, you know, is my main motivation and what's keeping me going. So you can say I'm keeping alright.
Was it hard for you to go public with your story?
Yes, certainly it was hard, I mean it's something that we thought about for a long time. But what really pushed it was you know the judge's decision on October 17 to deny the motion to reopen, which we are still fighting, by the way, but you know it was a difficult decision which we all finally made collectively.
A huge weight must now be taken off your shoulders after you went public with your mother's case, did you imagine you would get the outpouring of support you've gotten?
I never expected this kind of support, it's really been incredible. I knew my mom stories very compelling, you know but it's, you can never really expect so much support so I'm always really appreciative of this. We tell her every day every time we talk, we update her about you know the signatures we've gotten.
Have you told your mother about the global coverage her case has gained?
I talk to her every day. I tell her all the different places that publish her story either on TV or written media. And you know, a lot of times she just starts laughing and sort of in awe. So it's, it's very interesting and I'm sure that she's it's lifted her spirits in many ways too.
You've also set up a crowdfunding campaign to help your mother's legal and medical bills how has this been going?
It's been going great as well I haven't checked the last numbers but I think we're like in almost in 30,000.
When did your family come to the US?
We all came at different times. My dad was the first and then it was my mom and then the rest of us at different times. I've been here since I was seven which was 2003.
"...that's one of the things that we're using to justify her release she's not getting any the care that she needs in regards to cancer."
Can you tell me what the experience for your family living in America as undocumented citizens?
That's always a hard question because it's kind of like asking someone 'what has been your experience, past 24 years,' you know? It's been my whole life since I got here since I was seven so it's hard to take on. It's always been something that's been in the back of our heads. I knew from very young and it's something that you don't talk about as much and times you try to forget. So it is very difficult. I mean, just knowing that at any moment your family could be separated it's, it's always a scary thought but at the same time, we have to work we have to go to school we have to do everything that all of our neighbours are doing. So, yeah it's hard to answer that question in general.
Do you think the media is spending enough time discussing & investigating the real-life experiences of undocumented citizens in the US?
No, much of it is very sensationalised and devoid of substantive matters. Only the people who work for a living are targeted and misrepresented while the people profiting from immigrant labour are not.
What do you think can be done to improve this discourse?
There's so much that could be done to improve this discourse. I mean, the main thing is to take away this hyperpolarization of the issue. So much criminalisation and dehumanisation of immigrants make us even bigger targets. And like I said before we have to get to the core of the immigration which has to do with a discussion of labour controls or lack thereof and has to do with capital controls or lack thereof. The undocumented people already here should not be targeted. And another more fundamental matter is U.S. foreign policy which is a major factor in migration dynamics.
What does having DACA mean for undocumented citizens?
It means a lot because it allows us to work freely and be safe from deportations temporarily but it is still a very precarious situation. And, as someone who cars about all undocumented people, it is very narrow and doesn't help the majority of undocumented folks.
To go from Atlanta to Yale is no easy task, how did you become a Yale student?
My mom. She worked her whole life for me and made it possible for me to focus on my studies and have the relative tranquillity to place my efforts where I did.
When/how did your mother end up in an ICE detention centre?
My mother ended up in ICE detention centre in mid-August, after being pulled over for traffic violation and then arrested. The county she was pulled over is Gwinnett county who works with ICE through this program called to 287-G. And so when she was arrested, we paid bail they kept the money and they put her on hold for ICE and transferred to ICE the next day. By night and Saturday morning she was already at the Irwin Detention Center at a pro a for-profit centre owned and operated by law corrections.
How is her health, being in recovery for Stage 4 cancer must mean she is in need of regular medical attention, is she getting the care she needs?
No, that's one of the things that we're using to justify her release she's not getting any the care that she needs in regards to cancer. And she's also not getting additional care. For example, one thing that she's developed since being there is a vitamin B 12 deficiency. And so we're really scared for her. Only recently a few weeks ago, was it when she received medication, only after our attorney intervened. She also doesn't have any sort of special accommodations for her own situation, you know, since the surgery.
That was done to her before the chemo and radiation and as a result, he doesn't have full mobility of her mouth anymore so she can only open a few inches. A lot of her teeth have been lost or damaged. But she doesn't have any that the lunches are staggered and people get 10 minutes to eat, according to her. And so you know she doesn't have the time to eat and she doesn't eat comfortably. She's also in open rooms over 100 people like in bunk beds.
And so people develop erratic sleeping behaviours because the lights are only off for like about three or four hours during the night. And so, it's nowhere near it's not a hospitable place for anyone to be in but especially for someone like her and in the condition that she's in.