America Stopped This Dangerous Baby, So Everyone Can Breathe Easy
The New York Times this weekend brought us a case study of how Donald Trump's family separation policy tore apart just one family last year, although this particular example is notable because it involves the youngest child known -- so far -- to have been taken from his parents at the US-Mexico border. Little Constantin Mutu was just four months old when he was taken from his father, Vasile, a Romanian seeking asylum in the USA, having believed all that outdated crap about the Statue of Liberty being the "Mother of Exiles." What a sap! We're not letting those tempest-tossed takers push US around any more!
Constantin was taken from his dad in February of 2018, a good two months before the Trump administration officially announced the family separation policy -- but which we now know had been operating covertly since the summer of 2017 before it was expanded last year. Vasile and Florentina Mutu, members of the Roma ethnic minority, came to the US seeking asylum after Florentina found out that when she'd had a C-section while giving birth to Constantin, the doctors had also sterilized her without her knowing it. She said she was handed papers while she was foggy from the pain of labor, and had no idea what she was signing. Reporter Caitlin Dickerson notes "human rights groups have documented the practice of forced sterilizations" of Roma elsewhere in Europe.
And the Mutus had heard all sorts of wonderful things about America, too. They made a living by leaving their village and begging or doing short-term labor around Europe, then going home, where life was less expensive, but some people from their village had reputedly gone to the US and become rich, although maybe those stories were exaggerated. Still,
Over the years, more than a dozen other families followed, including Florentina's older brother, who left a few years ago with his wife and three children. He had posted pictures on Facebook of palm trees, luxury car dealerships and American cash.
After the unwanted tubal ligation, the Mutus decided to sell their house, leave their three oldest kids with relatives, and pay a smuggler to take them and their two youngest kids, baby Constantin and four-year-old Nicolas, through Mexico to the US. But once in Mexico, Constantin seemed to have a fever. At a bus stop, the parents each took a baby, to go look for some medicine; when Vasile realized Florentina and Nicolas weren't on the bus, he decided to take his chances with going on to the US ahead of his wife. This seems like a poor life decision, sure, but nobody is without poor life decisions.
He crossed the border at a footbridge between the US and Mexico, found a Border Patrol officer, and said he wanted to apply for asylum (it's not clear from the story whether this was at an official port of entry, which makes no difference under US asylum law anyway). And here his troubles began.
He told the officer that he wanted political asylum and was taken in to be interviewed with the help of an interpreter on the phone. Mr. Mutu explained that he had lost his wife and son, and that they were fleeing persecution in Romania.
A handful of officers entered the room. They took Constantin, placed him on a chair, and shackled Mr. Mutu's hands and feet.
"The police wiped the floor with me," he said through a translator, explaining that he was dragged out of the room while Constantin stayed behind with some of the officers. "I started crying because I didn't know what to do," he said. "I couldn't speak English. I told them, 'I don't understand. Why?'"
Meanwhile, Florentina was wondering how she'd find her husband and baby when she got a call from her mother back in Romania, where US immigration had gotten in contact to let her know that if Florentina came to the border, she'd be arrested. Relatives got enough money together to fly her and Nicolas back.
After being taken from Vasile, Constantin was placed with a nice family (and we're not being sarcastic, for once) in Michigan through Bethany Christian Services. Alma Acevedo, a case worker with the nonprofit, arranged for video calls to Florentina Mutu in Romania:
[Florentina] spoke frantically, but Ms. Acevedo couldn't understand, so she pulled up Google Translate on her computer and typed a message about Constantin in English, which she then played in Romanian.
Florentina Mutu started to sob. She repeated her full maiden name, which was listed on Constantin's birth certificate, over and over. "She said it like 20 times," Ms. Acevedo said "She said, 'Florentina Ramona Patu,' and I said 'Yes, yes, yes.' I just wanted her to know that he was somewhere. He wasn't lost or disappeared or something. I wanted her to know that he was with people."
Ms. Acevedo started making weekly video calls between Constantin and his mother, propping the baby up on the couch. Ms. Mutu would mostly cry as she spoke desperately to him in Romanian.
Spoiler: After family separation ended and all the kids she'd worked with were back with their parents, Acevedo quit the job. She told Dickerson, "I just couldn't get over it [...] So if I couldn't get over it, imagine the kids."
In detention, Vasile Mutu couldn't stop crying, and barely ate. Other detainees beat him so he'd be quiet. He considered killing himself and was eventually sent to psychiatric treatment for depression.
Two months into his detention, an immigration officer came to Mr. Mutu with an offer. As he understood it, if he gave up his claim for asylum, he would be deported back to Romania with Constantin. He agreed, and on June 3, 2018, he was released from his cell and loaded into a van.
He looked everywhere for Constantin and asked the officers where his son was, but was not given a clear answer. At the airport, he refused to board without the baby. The immigration officers, he said, told him that Constantin would be handed to him once he had taken his seat. But the plane lifted off and the baby never came.
As we've noted, ICE's casual, cruel lies to separated parents and children are among the constants of the family separation stories -- again and again with those fuckers. Let's never forget just how common that treatment was:
Constantin's foster family in Michigan fell in love with him, and did all they could to keep his real family apprised of how he was doing. The foster mother spoke anonymously with Dickerson since disclosing the details would "violate the terms of their contract with the federal government." They seem like truly good people who'd signed up to sponsor kids who'd migrated alone, but were handed a baby forcibly taken from his parents.
The baby's foster mother meticulously documented his developments for Ms. Mutu, keeping in mind how hard it would be to miss moments like when he first scooted across the living room floor or developed the belly laugh that shook his whole body. "He would do new sounds or something, and they only do it for a short amount of time, and so you want his mom to be able to hear that,"she said. "And she always wondered if he had teeth yet, and so when he would smile, you could see. So I just wanted her to see that."
Eventually, after a court hearing in which the government argued it shouldn't even have to buy the baby a plane ticket because he was an illegal border crosser (the judge said fuck that, get a ticket), Constantin was sent back to Romania, with the foster mother accompanying him. By then, at just nine months old, he'd spent more of his life with the foster mom. At the Bucharest airport,
She handed the baby to his mother, but he screamed and reached back in the other direction, his face crumpling into a knot of terror.
He cried for days, and for several weeks afterward, Florentina "struggled to get him to eat or sleep and exchanged text messages with his foster mother, who offered advice on how he liked to be cuddled and fed." Gee, it's almost as if babies don't react well to having their tiny lives uprooted. If only someone had told the US government. Like the American Academy of Pediatrics and other professionals did. As of now, Constantin is a year and a half old, and isn't walking by himself or talking, but don't worry, plenty of experts in the NYT comments explain that's perfectly normal and the whole story is a monstrous slander on patriotic Americans who don't want their country invaded, and why didn't the story make more of Vasile Mutu's criminal past, huh? (He says he was once "arrested for stealing cable from a construction site," the piece notes, although apparently that needed to be repeated every other paragraph.)
And that's just one of thousands of stories -- we still have no idea how many children were taken. But at least we scared all the immigrants away, so totally worth it. Go read the whole heartbreaking story, which was also produced as an episode of NYT's new collaboration with FX and Hulu, "The Weekly." (If you have a DVR, it'll rerun later this week at Ungodly-thirty AM, or you can see it on the Hulu subscription service.)
Also, remember, the father was arrested from stealing cable from a construction site, proving Tucker Carlson's point that America is being invaded by "Gypsies" who are inherently dirty criminals. Why doesn't the New York Times report what a lucky thing for America it is we stopped some, huh?
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.