Graciela's Laugh: A True Story

The last time I saw her -- wearing an ankle tracking device clamped on by ICE -- she wasn't laughing much

By John Edward Rangel
Published on LatinoLA: March 29, 2012

Graciela's Laugh: A True Story

Working in a large, two story building that contains a combination restaurant / bakery / catering services and administrative offices to oversee it all can be challenging. Being a cog in this flesh and bone machine that creates sumptuous meals by the hundreds is often incredibly nerve wracking. Some days are better then others but always you seek the positive constant. That 'good thing' you can count on to alleviate the moments of tediousness and stress. For me it is Graciela's laugh.

It is a big beautiful laugh. A rumbling, rainbow set free. It is so unrestrained in its honesty that you can't help but want to laugh along with her. When I am standing at the huge, three sink washing station, weary and miserable from scrubbing pots and pans, I need only to hear Graciela's laugh burst forth from the bakery area. It never fails to put a grin on my gloomy face. Knowing that she is one of the hardest working employees in the building only increases my smile. You just have to admire someone who laughs so joyously when working so hard.

Writers often use the word infectious to describe a person's laugh. It may be a cliche but it certainly applies. Graciela's laugh so proudly announces her joy in life that you just want to jump onto her happiness bandwagon. No matter how much your muscles ache and back hurts.

Now everything has changed.

Graciela no longer works at The French Gourmet in Pacific Beach. The last time I saw her she wasn't laughing much, and neither was her little daughter who clung to her. Graciela was wearing an ankle tracking device clamped on by ICE. She had been informed that, contrary to what the US government had told her, she would not be seeing an immigration judge and would be deported soon.

In my opinion, her involvement in The French Gourmet immigrant case is a key factor in her deportation. She did not want to cooperate with federal authorities against our boss and so she is being punished ( if you knew the details of this case you would be greatly disappointed in the powers that be).

A few weeks ago, in an LA Times article, I read that the Obama administration announced that deportations were down a third and that only criminals were being deported. Mr President, Graciela is no criminal. ICE might say she is but I answer that with a quote from MLK; "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." Years before ovens became The Final Solution, there was labeling, vilifying, bullying and ostracizing. Then came the laws. Wear a star, live in a certain area...etc. Ethnic cleansing and genocide begin with the 'legal actions' of agencies like ICE.

Spawning units like ICE that terrorize decent, hard working individuals like Graciela and the others involved in the FG case is a greater crime against humanity than anything my co workers may have done. Graciela and all human beings deserve better. We should know better. And we should do better.


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