Struggling With the Aftermath of Deportation

EDITOR’S NOTE: A mother struggles to support her three children after her husband is arrested and deported for having no papers.

Juan Ramirez, 38, and Angelica Garcia, 34, migrated from Mexico to the United States in search of a better way of life 18 years ago. And like many undocumented people, they had been doing their best to live “below the radar” ever since— that is, until Ramirez was abruptly detained and deported earlier this year, pushing his already struggling family into an even deeper financial crisis.

Ramirez was the primary income earner for the household, making a living as a day laborer. He regularly sought pick-up jobs at Home Depot, while his partner, Garcia, supplemented his earnings babysitting the children of other immigrant families. The food stamps her three U.S.-born children – Julio, 16, Francisca, 8, and Umberto, 2 — were entitled to, also helped.

Ramirez and Garcia did everything they could to provide a stable home for their children in the studio apartment they rented in San Pablo, Calif. They saw their kids off to school every morning and ate dinner together as a family every evening.

Despite their undocumented status, it was an ordinary life — until a series of unforeseen events turned everything upside down.

It started, according to Garcia, when their landlord one day without warning raised the monthly rent on their apartment from $600 to $1,400 dollars and demanded full payment. When the family was unable to come up with the money, they were evicted. Devastated, they turned to family and close friends for temporary shelter. Ramirez aggressively sought more pick-up work and even offered to barter his labor in exchange for temporary housing for his family. The extra effort, however, wasn’t enough. The family was eventually forced to move into an emergency homeless shelter.

The five-member family’s home was now reduced to a 10 by 10 square foot dormitory. Ramirez and Garcia vowed to stay in the shelter only until they could save enough money to secure another apartment.

24 Hours That Changed Everything
Leaving the shelter early one morning last April, Ramirez made his way down to the local Home Depot, just like on any other day. The weather was nice, a good omen for day laborers seeking an honest day’s work. Because March had been a particularly rainy month (which resulted in inconsistent work), Ramirez was happy when he received an offer to do some long-distance work. He left the family’s mini-van parked nearby, and hopped into the truck of the worksite foreman who had decided to hire him for the day.

Around noon, Ramirez called Garcia and told her to pick the kids up from school, as he couldn’t because he was still at work.

It would be the last time Ramirez and Garcia would talk that day. Little did they know that Ramirez would work well into the evening hours, and be unable to return to the shelter before its mandatory curfew hour of 9 p.m.
When Ramirez finally did get back to the shelter one hour after curfew, he was unable to gain entry. So he slept in his vehicle until daybreak. Meanwhile, a concerned Garcia endured a sleepless night, frantically calling local hospitals as she sought information about Ramirez’s wellbeing.

Around 5 a.m. Ramirez woke up in his vehicle, ready to get back to work. On his way to the previous day’s jobsite, he stopped at the local 7-Eleven in Richmond for a cup of coffee. As he gazed outside the store windows, he saw a Richmond Police patrol car and an immigration vehicle in the 7-11 parking lot.

According to Garcia (who would later speak to Ramirez by phone), the 7-Eleven cashier — suspecting Ramirez to be an undocumented immigrant and fearing the officers would possibly detain him — warned Ramirez to remain in the store until the vehicles left. Ramirez heeded the cashier’s warning and waited until the cars left the lot before he exited the store and climbed into his car. But within seconds, flashing lights from what Ramirez originally thought was a Richmond police car appeared in his rearview mirror. Unfortunately for Ramirez, however, it was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vehicle.

According to Ramirez, who spoke to Richmond Pulse by phone from Mexico earlier this week, the ICE officers followed him for awhile before pulling him over.

“They asked for ID and registration,” he recalled. “I told them, ‘I have no ID.’
They said, ‘Is this your car?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s my car.’
They said, ‘You have no ID, so how do we know? You’re going in.’”

Ramirez also told Richmond Pulse that there was a group of men in the ICE vehicle when he was arrested, implying that ICE had picked up multiple workers early that morning — despite the fact that Richmond became a “sanctuary city” for immigrants in late 2009. Under the sanctuary policy, city employees including police officers in Richmond are instructed to not share the immigration status of residents with federal authorities.

“There were others who had been picked up,” said Ramirez. “It wasn’t just me.”

With a heavy heart, Garcia recalled her husband’s last words to her that day, during a phone call he made after being detained.

“’I want you to take care of the kids,’” Garcia said Ramirez told her, sobbing into the phone.
By that time, according to Garcia, “He was being transported to [immigration authorities] in San Francisco.”

Richmond Pulse contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to verify details concerning Ramirez’ alleged deportation and was told that such information is only made available to the immediate respondents and their attorneys.

The Aftermath
Today, Garcia lives as a single mother struggling to provide financial and emotional support to her three children. Her sole source of public aid is food stamps for her children. She is reluctant to apply for other critical services, such as medical care to treat an undisclosed disability, and counseling services to help her children cope with the absence of their father in their lives. She fears seeking other public aid lest she get deported as well.

Navigating services in a primarily English-speaking community is also challenging, said Garcia, who is monolingual. With Ramirez now gone, she relies on her son and daughter (who are both bilingual) to be her eyes, ears and voice.

Garcia and her children are hoping to be reunited with Ramirez and being a complete family again, living in a home of their own. But for now, they will have to make do with a 10-by-10 shelter.

The names of the subjects in this story have been changed at their request.

Richmond’s Poverty in Pictures

Photo Essay, Karina Guadalupe and Nancy Ybarra

Walking through Central Richmond every day, I can’t help but notice all the garbage around, all the for sell, foreclosed and abandoned houses. I pass by flowers on a corner; there to remember someone who died.  A day doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t ask me for spare change.

For a while I thought this was normal, but it didn’t take me long to realize that not everyone in Richmond lived like this. It is the poorer areas that have to deal with this a lot more than the “better” areas. It’s hard to be optimistic when everything around you seems to be literally falling apart.  I look around and all I see is a part of the city that seems to be forgotten, abandoned even.




Instead of using the park to take kids to play it is being used as a personal garbage can for the neighbors that live around the area.

A lot of illegal dumping takes place through out the city. It makes the city look ugly and gives a sense that no one cares. It’s kinda ironic seeing sings like this around when they are rarely enforced and most of Richmond looks like a dump already.



Homes and business with bullet holes have the evidence of drive-by shootings that sometimes occur. I can’t say they happen everyday but one should be too many.

All over the city you can see petroleum pipeline warnings. That can’t be safe.

Many cities are known for they beautiful views but in Central our main view is of a Refinery. Not only is it ugly but no matter how safe they are being there is always the risk that there might be a leak.

Something you will definitely find a lot of in Central, North and South Richmond are liquor stores. On 7th and Pennsylvania alone, there are two liquor stores right across the street from each other. It’s not as easy to access healthy food and because of that many people have started their own gardens.

A young man was recently shot across the street from Nevin Community Center while a program for kids was going on. This is a memorial his friends and family put up in memory of him. Not too far down the street, there’s another memorial for a woman who was also shot and left four kids behind. The worst part about it is that kids are growing up thinking this is normal. Things really need to change.

This is Helen, she has been homeless for 11 years. She used to work for the post office. I’ve seen her around the Nevin Center for at least five years. Sometimes i would find her sleeping on the couch inside but she would have to leave because some people felt uncomfortable with her being there. I give her some change when I can.


















Learning to See the Police in a Different Light

Commentary, Sean Shavers

All my life I’ve been taught to despise the police, and for that matter, any other law enforcement official. I even had a saying: “From the Pigs to the Feds, may they all drop dead.” Now, you could say that was scandalous, wrong and just plain trifling. But I’ve seen the police abuse their authority and violate people’s civil rights, and when you come from a background where the police are considered terrorists, you don’t respect them or trust them and that’s how it’s been ever since I can remember.

Come to think about it, I recently had a brush in with the law – I received a citation for marijuana – that ended with me being slammed against a fence and thrown into a police car. At that moment, all the rage and anger I felt toward the police hit the fan. I hated them with a passion.

Not long afterward, I recorded a vlog (a video blog) about the Oakland Police Department. I said that they were incapable of catching criminals and were getting paid just to wear a badge. At the time, I was speaking from a position of hurt and anger. I didn’t realize that none of my statements were based on fact. I mean, how could I prove that all officers are lazy and not doing their job?

About a week later, I saw a headline in the newspaper: “Four Shot and One Critically Injured in Richmond.” I immediately wanted to cover the story and put my spin on it. So later that day I started making some calls and ultimately got in touch with Captain Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department. We set up an interview for the next day and it was on.

The next day Cpt. Gagan picked me up in his patrol car and we drove down to Central Richmond. We spoke briefly about politics, family and real life situations. Then the conversation, and my story, took a dramatic turn when Cpt. Gagan began revealing his street tactics and discussing his emotional ties to the community.

He showed me one of his tactics that was totally on the money. As he drove through the neighborhood he would give a head nod (acknowledgment) to certain people on the street and they would respond in a friendly manner.
Then he would mug (cold stare) others and you could almost tell what they were feeling by their facial expressions: fear, anger and annoyance.

Cpt. Gagan said it’s a simple tactic that reveals how just a little bit of positive acknowledgment can change folk’s views and opinions about the police. He also said that when officers acknowledge people like that – in a non-threatening manner — they are more cooperative and willing to help. But when you act like an asshole, then people seem to shy away. Knowing and understanding these things about the community have made Cpt. Gagan a persuasive force in Richmond.

Later that day, we headed down to the Richmond Police Department and Cpt. Gagan took me to a small room where there are video monitors showing live footage from 80 cameras located throughout the city. I saw several illegal but minor activities that were going on from each section of the city, like kids smoking weed, people urinating in public and jay walking. Though these are minor offenses, they are still offenses and violators could’ve been disciplined. At that moment I realized just how much power and authority the police really have.

After watching the video monitors, we jumped straight into the interview: It was time for me to see who this guy really was. From the very first question, his answers were intelligent, smooth and compelling. Each time I asked a question, he not only answered that one question but several others I hadn’t even asked yet. By the third question he had answered all ten questions I had written down, and you could tell each answer was real.

Cpt. Gagan was the first police officer that I’d ever felt comfortable with. I didn’t get a bad feeling in my gut when I saw him and I actually felt safe with him around. I felt like he was a real person, someone I could talk to and be open with.

He had a different opinion than most officers; he felt that he had to prove to the streets that he was real and that he was only there to help. He wanted to bridge the gap between the community and the police force.

By the end of that day, my opinion about the police had changed and I realized there are officers out there who actually care and want a relationship with the community.

“Let’s Foreclose on the Banks”

Video, William Haynes

EDITOR’S NOTE: With hundreds of foreclosed homes and empty lots, illegal dumping and crime are hurting Richmond neighborhoods. In response, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) recently held a community meeting at the Nevin Center on September 6th, to hold banks that own these homes accountable.

Municipal IDs to Foster Pride, Bolster Commerce and Promote Safety

News Report, Kia Croom

By a unanimous vote, on July 6, the Richmond City council approved the issuing of Municipal Identification cards to city residents. The cards are designed to promote public safety, foster community pride and support local commerce. The cards will feature a pre-paid debit card function to increase citizens’ access to banking services.

Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who spearheaded the ID card legislation, said the cards will benefit undocumented citizens who are often times victims of crime, yet seldom report criminal activity to the police.

“Richmond has a growing population of undocumented citizens who play an important role in the city’s commerce,” said Beckles. “They are subject to crime, housing and labor law violations; when crimes are committed against them, they are reluctant to contact the police for fear of being arrested and possibly deported. The Municipal ID will help protect them.”

Councilmember Beckles named other populations of community members who will benefit from the municipal id legislation, such as homeless persons, transgendered persons and survivors of domestic violence.

The Council’s decision to approve the municipal ID legislation has been well-received within the broader community. An anonymous Richmond resident, who self-reports being an immigrant, says she will obtain the municipal ID for herself and her two children once they become available.

“If this [ID] will help me get the things we need like a bank account, it’s a good thing. With it, I can get an account and we can get a stable place of our own to live.”

Roberto Reyes, community advocate and member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance ( an organization instrumental in advocating for the passage of the municipal ID legislation), highlighted some the benefits of the municipal ID for cardholders.
“People can gain important and vital services they need,” said Reyes. “And If they want to use this ID as a debit card they can, it’s purely voluntary.”

Municipal ID cards will be available to any Richmond resident who can prove they have been a resident for fifteen of the previous thirty days. Residents will pay a fee likely to range from $15-$35. Minors must have a parent or guardian complete and submit the application on their behalf. The ID will be valid for two years and must renewed.

The ID card program will be operated by an outside vendor and banking institution, both of which will be selected by through a competitive bids process. Cardholders can select an optional feature to use the ID cards as an ATM card. The ATM card function will be available for use at stores and local businesses. As an incentive, residents will benefit from commercial rewards, discounts and rebates when they use their cards.

Community Day at Chevron

Story, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

Beyond the North Richmond neighborhood, in the industrial section of this city, Chevron engineers, workers and representatives welcomed residents last Saturday to the second annual Chevron Refinery Community Tour, a chance for the public to get an up-close look at the largest oil refinery on the West Coast, producing 240,000 barrels (42 gallons per barrel) of crude oil per day.

The visitors on the tour represented a diverse cross section of Richmond, ranging in age, race and ethnicity — all curious to see the inside of a refinery best symbolized by the big red storage tanks that sit up on the Richmond hills. Toddlers wearing plastic fireman hard hats pressed their noses onto the thick windows, surveying the tangle of pipes and steel rods overtaking the land. At times, the tour resembled a junk yard theme park ride, gliding over cables and weaving in and out of rusted thick pipes, stopping momentarily for the riders to gaze at giant white spheres containing propane, gasoline, jet fuel and other deposits. It was easy to become mesmerized. Meanwhile, adults raised their hands and asked questions:

“From where does the refinery receive its imported crude oil?” Saudi Arabia and Alaska, we were told.

“How large are Chevron’s profits?” Apparently, the majority of Chevron’s profits come through its production of lubricant and motor oil. According to our tour guide, Chevron only profits “pennies on the gallon” for its gasoline.

“What does the ‘Cracking Facility’ do?” Cracking, we learned, involves heat breaking down the crude oil. However, utilizing hydrogen would also break down the crude oil and release fewer emissions.

“When did Chevron begin operating in Richmond?” First as Pacific Coast Oil and later as Standard Oil, Chevron has operated in Richmond since 1902.

In addition to taking questions like these, the tour guides described what life is like working at the Chevron refinery. Likening it to a miniature city, the guides said the Chevron Refinery operates its own electricity infrastructure separate from PG&E and up to 3,000 employees can be found on the ground level traveling through Chevron’s numerous departments on a daily basis.

Although open to the public, security during the tour was in abundance. Chevron required advance registration and parking passes that participants received through the mail. Upon entering the company parking lot on 841 Chevron Way, visitors presented identification to police officers. In addition to cameras and recorders, purses and backpacks had to be left inside vehicles before boarding the tour buses. Running from 9am to 2pm in one-hour shifts, large comfortable buses and Chevron engineers guided visitors into the principal refinery zone, and explained the intricate mechanisms of Chevron’s operations, which involve processing crude oil into the many different products people use daily.

Featured last on the tour was the partially constructed hydrogen facility that would allow Chevron to refine heavy crude oil and omit fewer emissions while supplying other Bay Area refineries with its product. However, construction on the Hydrogen plant must be postponed until Chevron addresses environmental concerns. The hydrogen facility is one component of Chevron’s Renewal Project (, a plan first introduced to the city of Richmond in 2005 which has been highly scrutinized.

At the end of the refinery tour, visitors exited the bus and made their way into the reception tents. Posted along the tent’s plastic walls were photographs of the Chevron Refinery and workers. The historical photographs, postcards and newsletters stacked on the tables tied Chevron’s growth to Richmond’s development from the 1920’s, to Richmond’s home front experience during World War II and finally, to the Downtown Richmond’s re-emergence in the last decade with the company’s support of the Richmond Main Street Initiative. The bind between Richmond and Chevron was even more emphasized during the tour, by outreach material that chose to highlight Chevron’s $3.7 million in contributions to Richmond and West Contra Costa government programs in 2010.

The small number of visitors who stayed to mingle in the reception tents were allowed to have conversations with Chevron representatives, who passed out bottled water and placed chocolate snacks on the tables. Standing next to a banner promoting the “Chevron Renewal Project,” Chevron public affairs representatives offered additional information on the project. Clearly, the shadow of the 2009 Environmental Impact Report that ceased the construction for the Renewal Project looms large for the company. According to one public affairs representative, Chevron “recognizes the confusion and concern” related to the project in the community, and through events like the community tour, the company hopes to “demystify” the process of refining crude oil and provide information for the greater Richmond community.

Police Seeking Community Solutions to Neighborhood Violence

Video, Sean Shavers

EDITOR’S NOTE: After another violent night in the City of Richmond that ended with several people being shot, Police Captain Mark Gagan and Kim MacDonald of the Office of Neighborhood Safety spoke to Richmond Pulse reporter Sean Shavers about what they think it will take to end the cycle of violence in Richmond.

A Homeless Shelter Reacts to Obama’s Jobs Speech

News Report, Donny Lumpkins, Posted: Sep 09, 2011

Last night, President Obama rolled out his new plan to jump-start the economy and create jobs for Americans. At a homeless shelter in Richmond Calif. — a city reeling with problems like unemployment, gun violence and foreclosures — the President’s speech was viewed with healthy skepticism mixed with cautious hope.

Obama told Congress to “pass right away” a plan that he says will lower the unemployment rate that currently sits at 9.1 percent. In Richmond, the unemployment rate is 17.6 percent — almost double the national average. With the elections right around the corner, if the President wants to keep his job that number has to change.

The plan is supposed to put money in the pockets of the average American and help those who have been unemployed for a long time. It will also provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers.

It’s supposed to provide a jolt to an economy that has screeched to a halt.

At the GRIP (Greater Richmond Interfaith Program) building — the largest homeless service provider in Richmond — a few hopeful people sat around a table in the soup kitchen to watch Obama’s speech, hoping the President would say something that would help them get back on their feet.

Among them was Garry, 47, around six feet tall, bald and dressed to the nines, he spoke thoughtfully and intelligently. Garry seemed like he would be a valuable asset to any company. He’s from the Bay Area and has been unemployed for a little over a year, though he has been diligently looking for work to no avail. He declined to provide his last name.

He’s an ex-felon and said he never gets past the background checks. He hoped Obama would address the issues of people in the inner-city who are under-educated or have been in the system and need employment desperately. Garry hopes Obama understands his needs and the needs of people like him.

“This whole notion of the corporate world, people having to have an education to be successful, or to even be able to have the necessities of life. Everybody’s not in that situation.” People are hungry, he said. He’d like to hear Obama address the issue of felons’ rights and says he has yet to hear the President do so.

Calvin Tennyson, 64, is from Richmond and works at GRIP part time. Though he is no longer career oriented he still needs extra cash to make ends meet. His pay comes from the government and in the last few years he’s seen his hours cut from 20 hours a week down to fourteen.

“Just this year alone from the budget cuts they reduced the number of hours,” Tennyson said. “For some seniors who aren’t receiving benefits or social security and who depend on the 20 hours, this is a problem, devastating to their income.”

Also at GRIP watching the speech were Ricky and Jennay Stokes – 33 and 41 respectively — from North Richmond, Calif. They are currently homeless and living at GRIP with their children. GRIP is one of the only homeless shelters in the Bay Area that serves entire families. Ricky and Jennay have both been out of work for a long stretch.

Ricky is an ex-felon who says his lack of education and criminal record adds insult to injury in a barren job market in Richmond. He’s been looking for work for 18 months. Jennay says she hasn’t had much luck either. “In Richmond a lot of people just are not hiring.”

Ricky said Obama’s speech “…sounds good but I’ve been sold dreams all my life.” He’d like to see Obama take some action. “I got a lot of kids and it’s hard to live off of the income we get from the system.”

He feels the government might not really care about people in his family’s situation. To his mind, if the politicians really did care they would come to the “heart” of where America’s problems are and start leading by example. “Don’t just talk about it, be about it,” he continued, adding that the reality is that people are trying but the job situation is dire. “You basically have to go to San Francisco or the Fremont area [to find a job]…there are no jobs around here [unless] you lucked up, fell through the cracks and got one.”

The general consensus after the speech is that the President did address some of the issues the people at GRIP wanted him to but their hopefulness comes with a grain of salt because they know politicians aren’t always able to do what they say. And too often, they don’t reach out to the people who need them the most.

“Talk about the inner cities a little more, because they are still down there,” Garry said. “In some ways, I feel like that’s why the economy is such a mess: we’re not dealing with the core of who we are.”

6 Simple Things That Can Turn Deadly in Richmond

News Analysis, Danny McLane / Nancy Ybarra / Karina Guadalupe

EDITOR’S NOTE: This summer, violence broke out in Richmond, California, disrupting what had been a relatively peaceful 18 months in this beleaguered East Bay city. The 13 murders committed since June 1 all took place in the Richmond flatlands, where police have attributed the shootings to warring gang factions representing different neighborhoods in north and central Richmond.

Three local Richmond Pulse reporters – Danny McLane, 18; Nancy Ybarra, 22; and Karina Guadalupe, 19 – recently sat down to share their thoughts with one another on the various ways that violence gets sparked on the streets of Richmond. The following list came out of that discussion.

1. Cracking a Joke

Danny McLane, age 18: One thing in a teenager’s daily life that is commonly taken for granted is (telling or being the subject of) a simple joke. From an outside (perspective) it’s fun, but…

Nancy Ybarra, age 22: Small arguments can escalate and turn into something deadly. Once I witnessed a petty argument between my two neighbors. They were talking about each other’s mothers. It ended up with one guy who lived across the street threatening to kill my next-door neighbor. The next morning, he shot my next door neighbor in the head.

Karina Guadalupe age, 19: Sometimes (the) things someone says (about another person) are funny to some people, but can be taken the wrong way by others. Something as simple as [a joke] can turn into an argument or something worse.

2. Looking at Somebody the Wrong Way or For Too Long

NY: Seems like if you stare at someone for too long without meaning to, they take it the wrong way. They don’t forget, and funk can begin.

KG: I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about this but I guess that’s just how it is. Once I was at Burger King with a friend, I was looking out the window when a girl sat by it. She thought I was staring at her and we ended up arguing because of it. It didn’t escalate, but it was pretty funny to me. I never thought I would be arguing with someone about something that stupid.

NY: I think envy can also make someone stare. Females often tend to hate on each other. One female could be dressed better than the other, or their hair could be looking better. It starts with stares.

3. Hanging Out With the Wrong People

NY: Hanging out with a certain group of people, you kind of inherit their problems along with the friendship. Now their problems are your problems [so] you have to deal with those too. If you rock with them, you have to duck with them!

4. Going to the Wrong Neighborhood

DM: One problem that Richmond youth face today is the necessity of watching your surroundings. Being aware of your surroundings is… quite frankly [unnecessary] for many young people in America. But in the city of Richmond, constantly looking over your shoulder is survival attic; a habit. Something so minor as a simple walk down the street can turn deadly in a matter of seconds. It’s a well-known fact among Richmond residents that certain places during certain times are just plain off limits.

KG: Richmond is divided into three neighborhoods: North, Central and South Richmond. I know many young people that won’t go past certain points. The boundaries they have set for themselves are trapping them in their own neighborhood. It’s sad.

5. The Clothes You Wear

KG: Different neighborhoods wear different hats. They wear them to stand out and so others know where they are from. It has started a lot of drama.

DM: High Schools such as Richmond High and Kennedy – schools (that are) submerged in low-income, high violence areas — have decided to accept new (clothing) guidelines, one being no hats, (because) hats with the letters “C”, “NY” and “CR”, among others, have contributed to violence.

NY: ”NY” hats in North Richmond and ”C” hats in Central Richmond can represent which hood you live in. Each neighborhood takes pride and if you’re seen with the wrong hat it’s taken as a form of disrespect. And in many cases it has taken lives.

You can also get love from people for wearing the right hat in the right neighborhood. I use to wear a ”C” hat that represents Central, because I grew up in the neighborhood. I also had pride but one day I got stopped by the police for wearing the ”C” hat. After that I decided never to wear that particular hat again.

6. Who You are Related To

NY: If someone has funk with someone you’re related to, they automatically have funk with you too.

KG: Sometimes, you don’t even have to do anything for someone not to like you. Just being related to someone can put a target on your back. People can give you an attitude, mug you (look at you threateningly) or can start a fight just because they don’t like your sister or your brother, and sometimes even your cousins.