Why we cannot win in court

The judge decided not to order Jose’s deportation. In a daze, we got out our cellphones to send updates — but what can we call this? A victory? As we left a building full of people with no lawyers, no support and no chance of a decision in their favor, we reflected on what had just happened. Here are a few stunned thoughts, one day later.

Court is about self-defense — it is not about winning.

And it comes at a heavy price. The judge has to determine if removing the person would cause extreme and unusual hardship to a United States citizen, in this case his son. The judge first specified for the record that the court recognizes removing a parent from a child causes hardship — this is an accepted reality that is stated, formally and cynically, as a given fact. However, he continued, the matter before the court is to determine whether, in this case, the hardship is of a more unusual and extreme nature than that experienced in the normal or average case. And the entirely of that determination was made based on the testimony of the person on trial.

Those lucky enough defend themselves are forced to elevate themselves and their child and their hardship above everyone else, to enter into an explicit agreement with the reality of “normal hardship” as something that cannot be questioned — and implicitly to condone it. This is the nature of the double-violence done to those called “deportable”. We will hunt you down and offer you the option to leave willingly. If you fight, we will hurt you more.

We promised that our solidarity would not repeat outside of the courtroom the violence that is done inside. Maybe this commitment is already a celebration, a discovery and a new first step. The next step in our celebration will take us to Joliet.

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