Back to brazil?
Deported After 23 Years
A student at Queensboro Community College holds a Brazilian flag — one a 28-year-old who grew up in Astoria may soon become familiar with. Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
By LIZ GOFF
Chris arrived in the United States with his parents from their native Brazil when he was 5 years old.
His father died of a massive heart attack less than a year after the family settled into an apartment in Long Island City – leaving his wife and son to “make it” on their own.
Chris’ mother found a job as a seamstress in Brooklyn, working long hours to pay the rent to support herself and her son. Working 70 hours each week in another borough meant that her son was on his own for at least seven hours each day.
“That’s too much for a little boy,” Chris’s mother said.
Chris never made it through high school. He dropped out during his sophomore year – after he discovered he could “make big money selling drugs” on the streets of Astoria.
Now 28 years old, Chris recently received a notice from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service advising him that he is in the United States illegally.
“I contacted them to see what I would have to do to stay here,” he said. “They told me there is nothing anyone can do – that I have to return to Brazil and apply to get back into the United States.”
When he turned to a local immigration advocacy service for help, Chris learned he had a few obstacles standing the way of his remaining in the U.S.
“I don’t have a Green Card,” he said. “And I have a few arrests for drug dealing, dating back a few years. I’ve been told that both of those problems add up to my having to leave.”
Chris said his last arrest, about five years ago, made him realize he was on “the road to destruction.”
“It was cool to drive around in expensive cars, wear real sports jerseys and $100 sneakers,” he said. “But I was stupid. I should have gone back to school and applied for citizenship. And now it’s too late.”
“I don’t want to go to Brazil. I don’t know anyone there – not even my relatives who live there,” he said. “I don’t know anything about the country, what kind of job I can get or even how to get a job.”
Chris’s mother has been pleading with immigration officials to allow her son to stay in the U.S. She became a citizen years ago. “I just didn’t think to make Chris do it with me at the time,” she said.
“I know this is mostly my own fault,” she said. “I should have made sure he was better taken care of when he was little, and I should have seen that he became a citizen.”
Through tears, the frail, tired woman said, “This is my only child. I don’t know what Ill do if they make him leave.”
She said Chris has “really straightened himself out” over the past few years. “He has a really good job now, and he’s stayed out of trouble,” she said.
When asked how Chris is working without a Social Security number, she said “like everyone else who is here without papers.”
Chris said he has to decide if he should return to Brazil and face the possibility of never being able to legally return to the U.S. – or if he should remain in Queens, change his name and address and hope he “never gets caught” by immigration officials.
“It’s a tough decision to make,” he said. “But I don’t want to leave my home – the only place I remember living.”
“And I don’t want to leave my mother,” he said. “It will break her heart.”