NEVADA CITY, Calif., Oct. 25, 2013 - No, it wasn't a technical glitch. Not when you have someone as gifted as Pascale Fusshoeller as your 'head geek,' although she is also YubaNet's co-founder, editor and one of the nation's best fire news journalists. YubaNet, which we operate out of our home office, is just 2 people. So we both wear all the hats needed to make YubaNet happen every day.
And we love doing it, starting at 4 am every morning. But take one of us out of the equation and it cuts our "staff" in half. When Pascale's not here, YubaNet ceases to function entirely, since she handles the tech end of YubaNet. I'm still trying to figure out what "in the cloud" means. Without Pascale, the news we write and gather simply doesn't get posted.
For YubaNet readers who don't live in our Sierra foothill hometown of Nevada City, California or don't keep up with local or statewide news outlets like the Sacramento Bee, here's what happened to keep us from doing what we love best from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15, which is publishing the news for you on YubaNet.
Pascale and I have been a couple for almost 15 years. She is a citizen of Luxembourg. We met and fell in love in 1999, when she overstayed so we could be together. Since then she has been undocumented and at constant risk of discovery, through no fault of her own. She's undocumented because as an American citizen, I wasn't allowed to marry the person I loved, or sponsor her for a green card even if I could get married. For all that time, we have lived in the shadows, sharing very little about our private lives. Each day that Pascale merely returned home brought a sigh of relief. We made it through another day.
We waited almost 15 years for the discriminatory laws of the U.S. to change so gay couples were not only allowed to get married. Additionally, as a bi-national couple, we had an extra and especially cruel barrier to staying together. We also needed the draconian law that prevented American citizens like me from sponsoring her foreign spouse for U.S. residency to be judged for what it clearly was -- unconstitutional. That law was called DOMA.
On June 26, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Prop 8 and on the same day struck down the ironically-named "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA). Passed by Congress in 1996, DOMA prohibited the federal government from recognizing any gay marriages, denying same-sex American couples the over 1100 federal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by straight couples. Rights like a surviving spouse not having to pay estate taxes after their spouse died, hospital visitation rights, social security and health care benefits, filing joint tax returns, etc.
As horrid as DOMA was for married gay couples -- both of whom were American citizens -- it was even worse for married gay bi-national couples because DOMA prevented the American half of the married couple from establishing residency for their spouse. Simply put, DOMA outlawed immigration protections for bi-national gay married couples.
Pascale and I got married in July, soon after Prop 8 could not stop us and DOMA was no longer an impediment to legal residency for Pascale. Since our wedding, we had been in the process of getting all our paperwork together to obtain her green card. We were moving as fast as we could and then late in the afternoon, on Tues. Oct. 8, Pascale was pulled over for a routine traffic stop near our home in Nevada City, and found out to be undocumented. She was arrested and booked into the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in Nevada City and held without bail. Right after she was booked, an officer with the Nevada County Sheriff's Department told me she was on an immigration hold.
A routine traffic stop shouldn't result in destroyed families and businesses, but that was the path ICE put us on the day Pascale was arrested. ICE's objective was clear: get Pascale on a plane to Luxembourg ASAP, a country where she has had no family ties or friends for decades. She became an ICE File Number, roped indiscriminately into deportation proceedings regardless of her marital status, reputation in her community, or any extenuating circumstance of any kind, even though ICE has the authority and choice to exercise discretion.
Early on Friday Oct. 11, ICE agents removed Pascale from Wayne Brown in Nevada City and took her to the Federal Building in Sacramento where she was required to sign an order of removal (from the U.S.) that was dated Oct. 9. Once removed, she would be forbidden from entering the U.S. for at least 10 years and only with special permission.
Later that day, Pascale was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail as an ICE detainee and placed in solitary confinement in a tiny cell where she was constantly in a state of low grade hypothermia. While Pascale has been quick to point out that Correctional Officers and ICE agents were always courteous and professional, the frightening detention conditions contravened even the rules outlined in the "National Detainee Handbook," – the only reading material she was given. The limited ability Pascale had to communicate with me by phone, or to know what would happen to her from one minute to the next added to the anguish. Visits from her attorney, who kept her informed about the legal aspects of her case, were a lifeline. She was allowed only 2 visits a week by me, lasting 45 minutes each.
The outcry from YubaNet's hometown readers was instantaneous and still-ongoing. Pascale's friends and supporters quickly launched a facebook page: www.facebook.com/WesupportPascale to inform the community and share ideas of what they could do to help. Her tragic story made statewide headlines since YubaNet is known to other California media outlets due to Pascale's respected fire news and other reporting on Sierra Nevada issues. Boxer's and Feinstein's offices were flooded with emails and phone calls from people from all walks of life, including elected officials, fire officials, law enforcement, and media colleagues. The gay community in Sacramento hit the streets to pass out flyers at public events, also asking people to contact their elected representatives. In short order the response was so overwhelming that our community was asked to "please stop writing and calling, we hear you!"
Not having any access to newspapers while in ICE detention, Pascale had no clue any of this massive outpouring of public support was even happening. To lift her spirits, I told her about all the people who cared and what they were doing. But it was hard for her to understand since she was living in solitary confinement and deprived of news from the outside world – a nightmare scenario for any journalist.
And I, as her spouse, was deprived of any information about Pascale from ICE. Never once have I been contacted by ICE, to this day. I only learned of her continually changing whereabouts via the rare times she was given access to a phone.
In the very early morning hours of Tues. Oct. 15, Pascale was transferred to an ICE facility in San Francisco. Placed in a holding cell with a working phone, Pascale was able to call me to tell me where she had been taken. We tried our best to comfort each other, as she was moved even further away from home. We surmised she was going to be moved out of state to a regional ICE detention center. Arizona, perhaps?
Then, during a second call to me from Pascale two hours later, an ICE agent came to the holding cell and called her name. To our surprise she was informed she was being immediately driven back to Sacramento and released under prosecutorial discretion. In Sacramento, Pascale was handed back some of her property and released without any paperwork or information. My best friend drove to me to Sacramento to pick her up.
While Pascale and I are elated with the decision that freed her from detention and allowed us to be reunited and working together again on YubaNet, we still don't know the status of ICE's order of removal. Our attorneys have been unable to get any response from either the Sacramento or San Francisco ICE offices. While ICE moved at lightning speed against Pascale during the government shutdown, the lack of response now that the federal government is running at full speed again is notable.
If the order of removal is lifted, Pascale and I will be able to request an adjustment in status and we can again proceed to going about the business of officially establish her residency.
If the removal order is not lifted, Pascale can be torn from me, our business, and community -- at any moment. That is all we know at this moment, and now you – YubaNet readers who live far from the extensive local media coverage about our awful predicament – know what we know.
Rest assured that we will keep you informed, since we can now publish all the news on YubaNet – including the news about this story, as much as wish we weren't the subject of the headlines.
In the meantime, Pascale and I want to thank all of our readers for your kind thoughts and efforts on her behalf. There are not adequate words to convey our appreciation to all of you, wherever you live. Just know that you – YubaNet's readers – are the reason we get up at 4 am and work around the clock if need be. We're so pleased to be back at it again!
Susan Levitz, Publisher
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