I have a dream

A friend sent me a link to a story about a Korean family that had overstayed its temporary visa years ago and was recently officially allowed to stay in the U.S. Its two children who came here at 10 and 7 years old, however, face deportation.

It took 10 years for the Kang family’s application to become legal residents to be approved under a provision that allows visa violators to meet certain requirements and pay a fine in order to remain in the states (i.e., Section 245 (i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act). In that time, the two children became adults so they are now considered illegal aliens in the country in which they were primarily raised.

The children’s separate applications, filed in 2009, to adjust their immigration status were rejected, so the Department of Homeland Security began removal proceedings against the now 23- and 26-year-olds. That means the young men may be shipped back to Korea, where they have nothing.

The real problem is one of the kids has Down syndrome and the mental capacity of an 11-year-old. He still needs his parents’ care.

I understand immigration law is complex.

I understand that the family broke the law in the first place, but the father worked, did not take public assistance, and went through proper legal channels to earn a right to stay here. As contributing members of American society, it seems the Kangs would prefer to remain where they’ve grown roots. They are now working with ICE on legal options.

I wonder if they are even considering moving their entire family back to Korea. I don’t know.

What I do know is the 26-year-old who has Down syndrome should not be without his caregivers. Separating a child like him from his parents would be nothing less than inhumane.

The article describes a tricky situation. The comments readers posted about the article that follow it kill me.

They always do.

It never ceases to amaze me how cruel and misguided our xenophobia can be.

One man points out the worthlessness of one of the Kang brothers facing deportation by stating that the Homo sapien is the only species that doesn’t kill its disabled offspring.

I don’t believe that is so, but even if it were true, isn’t it nice to know us humans are more evolved than snakes?

The same man, in refining his stance on the differently abled, wrote, “Ceasing to exist is better than a lifetime of agony.”

I wonder what would happen if, God forbid, that man’s son suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. I wonder, would he abandon the child or just take him out back with a shotgun?

(I can assure you, by the way, my son who happens to have Down syndrome is in no agony.)

When a pregnant mother of a child with Down syndrome faced a high risk of her next child having Down syndrome as well, she wrote a New York Times parenting blog post about forgoing genetic testing (which I also declined) because she would welcome another.

While many commenters agreed with her that every life is worth living, some went on the attack.

One reader insisted that Down syndrome is a “problem” and children born with it are “doomed for life.” As if raising a typical child were inherently smooth sailing, the woman reasoned that it’s no picnic raising a child with Down syndrome, so she should have the right to kill it in the womb if she desires.

Sure, that right exists, but that doesn’t make it right.

It is indeed far from easy to raise my child who has Down syndrome, but not for the reasons you might think.

One of the most difficult aspects is coming to terms with others’ misjudgments and ignorance about people who have disabilities.

I am particularly disturbed when people try to rationalize my youngest’s existence by saying that individuals with Down syndrome are such happy people. “They’re always smiling,” people tell me.

Does that mean my older boy, who is developing typically, is actually less desirable because his happy moments are not as consistently apparent to the world? Am I supposed to take comfort that my kid with Down syndrome grins a lot and let it appease me when people inevitably call him stupid?

I have two children, people. Not a child and a warm puppy! Both my boys experience every emotion. Both suffer from life’s hardships, and both experience ecstatic joy.

Having a child that is developing slowly has brought my own imperfections to light.

Every person has abilities or disabilities of a sort. But whether a kid has an extra chromosome, a crippling disease, or just a bad case of ugly shouldn’t give someone else a free pass in the ethics department to denounce that individual, or worse, do the unthinkable.

People with physical or intellectual impairment have yet to enjoy anything close to equality in terms of common opinion and in the currency of daily action.

On this would-be 82nd birthday of Martin Luther King, I, too, have a dream.

I have a dream that all people will think and act as though we – disabled, immigrant, or civil rights leader – are all  created equal.

I have a dream that people who condemn the imperfect are called to the carpet. That everyone truly gets how we are all different, yet the same. That no unborn child’s life is ended for fear of a challenging path.

I have a dream that my two little children will grow up in a world where they will not be unfairly judged by their capacities or appearance.

I have a dream that they will both reach their full potential and live fully in freedom.

Let freedom ring.

About elizamom

Colorado mother of two small boys. One happens to have Down syndrome.
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One Response to I have a dream

  1. Beth Hayden says:

    Beautifully written post, Elizabeth. I know pretty much nothing about what it’s like to raise a differently-abled child, and I really appreciate you writing about it so honestly and beautifully. I loved this paragraph, in particular:

    “Every person has abilities or disabilities of a sort. But whether a kid has an extra chromosome, a crippling disease, or just a bad case of ugly shouldn’t give someone else a free pass in the ethics department to denounce that individual, or worse, do the unthinkable.”

    I want to print that out, put it above my desk at my office, and start educating the world a little more.

    Thanks for your honestly and your wonderful writing. Please keep posting.

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