Abolishing ICE

Reporter Paola Zapata shares her personal story with therapy, her dad’s deportation, and ICE.


Paola Zapata

Sophomore Paola Zapata and her dad share a happy moment. Zapata’s father was deported in 2019.

Paola Zapata , Reporter

My Story behind a Deported Parent 

On May 7, 2019, I was sitting in the St. Anthony’s Hospital Mental Health Unit. It was finally the day I was going to get discharged after being there for 2 weeks. I was so excited to head home and finally be with my family. Little did I know the news I was about to receive.  

My therapist at the hospital had set up one last family therapy session and I was taken out of the unit and into his office. I was surprised to see my mom with my uncle and aunt sitting in the room. I did not really know what was going on but I assumed that my dad was at work or something and could not come pick me up.  

I knew that, that morning my parents had gone with their lawyer to finally get their U.S. residency papers. It had been 20 years of trying to do so and we were so sure that my parents would finally get their papers.  

As I sat down in the office, my mom told me that ICE had taken custody of my dad. They told my dad that he was being held, because he came to the United States illegally, went back, and came back to the States, after he was told to stay in Mexico for 5 years before coming back. That is all my mom knew though. We did not know where they took him, we did not know how he was, or if he was going to Mexico.  

did not really know how to react, as I was trying to process that information. My mind went completely blank and all I could think about honestly was going home and finally getting to eat Canes. We went on with the Family Therapy session and I told the therapist I was ready to go home.  

My mom signed the paper that I was in her custody again and I went back into the unit to get my bags and say goodbye to everyone. We walked out of the building and we drove home. When I got home, we kind of just chilled and I got to spend time with my family and cousins.  

I was discharged a day before a field trip (All Sports Day) at school because I really wanted to go. I wanted to see my friends and go back to school. So, the next day on May 8 I went to school and I saw everyone again. Everyone was surprised to see me and I was bombarded with questions. I even had a teacher tell me, “Oh my goodness, I thought you were dead!” I kind of just pushed off questions and tried to stay close to my friends. I regretted going to school that day as I was not feeling very well mentally.  

I remember sitting in the gym with my friend and just crying because I was so worried about my dad. I had people stare at me and some even come up and ask me if I was okay. When I was not. I was crying so much that I decided to call my mom and tell her I wanted to go home. And it was not too long before my sister came to pick me up and I was able to get home. I felt more comfortable at home and I was able to talk with my mom and tell her how I felt.  

Later that evening I received the news. My uncle and aunt had come to my house again and told us that My dad was on his way to Monterrey, Mexico. When I heard the news, I began to cry and I could not hold back. could not believe that this was real. It did not feel real. I had JUST seen my dad that Sunday of that week on visiting day and now he was on his way to a whole other country.  

The rest of the night was hard. I do not remember much, but I do remember going to church that Wednesday night and asking my youth minister to pray for my dad. I did not really give a reason as I did not want all the white people at my church to feel bad for me. I can honestly say, that asking for that prayer request really seemed to help at that time, and as of today I rarely am going to church.

When we got home, we got the news that my dad was with family in Monterrey. I was trying on some pants for my eighth-grade promotion, when my mom told my sister and I that my dad was on FaceTime. My sister and quickly rushed to the kitchen and we talked to my dad. We were happy to see that he was okay. 

My dad later told me that on the bus ride to Mexico, his wrists and ankles were handcuffed. He was not allowed to talk much and that there we are ICE agents in the bus with him. It hurt me to hear that the agents did not even unhook the cuffs to let my dad use the restroom in peace. I cannot even imagine trying to use that tiny restroom on the bus with both wrists and ankles cuffed.  

The next day at school my other sister and I truly did not want to be there. We decided to go to the high school counselor and tell her what was going on. My sister was able to tell her and she told us that it was okay to go home. Our teachers were told what was going on and we went home.  

Later that night I was still able to get ready for my promotion and I was able to walk the stage and wear a robe. After the promotion was over, I went to find my family and I broke out into tears. It was not fair that other kids got to be with their dads or have their dads there. My mom gave me a big hug and told me that it was okay to express how I was feeling. One of my friends at the time saw me and gave me a hug too.  

The rest of the school year was hard. It was hard knowing that when I got home my dad was not there. It was hard not having my dad at my sisters’ high school graduation. And god, who knows what my mom was going through. It was an extremely tough time for my family and I.  

The summer was even worse. I was home alone all the time as everyone was working. I started to feel worthless and like my life mattered even less. I just felt like I was not doing anything to help my family. I still saw my therapist weekly and I was able to tell her how I felt.  

It was also hard not having my dad at my 15th birthday party. I had planned to have Quinceañera, even if it was just a small one, but I did not end up having one since my dad was not going to be able to be there. I had a small party and I was able to FaceTime my dad that night. I did end up crying as I missed him.  

That same year in December, I was able to go to Mexico. It was the first time I had even been and I was seeing my dad in person after not seeing him for 7 months. I spent a month in Mexico with him and it is something I will never forget.  

Now as these last two years have passed, I have been able to go back to Mexico. I went in the summer of 2020 (with COVID-19 precautions) and in November through the beginning of January 2021.  

It is not the easiest thing to be away from a parent for so long, but I able to express my emotions and talk about how I feel about this situation to my family and my therapist. It has been a rough two years without my dad at home, but my family and I have managed to live with this situation 

I want to end this story with something my dad always tells me when I am on the phone with him. ” Échale ganas mi’ja y cuídateTe amo y te extraño mucho. 

So, What is ICE?  

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) is made up of three offices. The offices include Enforcement and Removal Operations, Beyond Enforcement and Removal Operations and The Office of the Principal Legal Adviser.

Under President Barack Obama, the division prioritized removing undocumented immigrants who had committed serious crimes in the United States. 

After taking office, Trump took an all the firmer stance position and guided his organization to target anyone in the country illegally.” (The New York Times)

Beyond Enforcement and Removal Operations pursues criminals and terrorists involved in drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human trafficking, cybercrime, financial crimes and identity fraud. It also looks out for counter proliferation investigations, and targets individuals who illegally try to smuggle military and other high-tech equipment out of the United States. (The New York Times)

The Office of the Principal Legal Adviser employs about 1,400 workers who supply legal support to other employees and represent the government in immigration courts. (The New York Times) 

What is the Problem and Why do People Want to Abolish ICE? 

What is Happening? (Detention Camps) 

ICE Is at Your Door, What Do You Do? 

Know Your Rights 

You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents, or other officials. Anything you tell an officer can later be used against you in immigration court. 

If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. 

If an immigration agent asks if they can search you, you have the right to say no. Agents do not have the right to search you or your belongings without your consent or probable cause. 

If you’re over 18, carry your papers with you at all times. If you don’t have them, tell the officer that you want to remain silent, or that you want to consult a lawyer before answering any questions. 

Important Things to Remember!!! 

  • Stay calm, “comply” with the officer even if you believe they are violating your rights 
  • Remain silent or tell the officer you wish to remain silent 
  • Do not lie about anything 
  • Anything you say can be used against you 
  • Ask to speak with a lawyer 
  • Do NOT sign any documents or answer questions without your lawyer present 
  • Record details and names of officers 

Petitions + Donations  

Border Angels

Abolish ICE

Vida Libre Bond Fund

Shut Down the Berks Detention Center

Stop ICE From Poisoning Immigrants

Demand ICE To Stop Using Dangerous Chemicals

Stop Putting Children in Cages

End Microsoft’s Future Partnerships with ICE

Stop Separating Children From Their Families at the US Border

Free All Immigrants from Detention Center w/COVID Outbreak