A front-page article in the Sunday Times got my attention. It was an immigrant story unfolding in Britain, but it could certainly could have been here or in any country in Western Europe. I don’t want to get into immigration politics but I think everyone will agree that there is a certain degree of public hostility toward specific groups of immigrants. ‘Managed migration’ ensures the most desirable, skilled refugees take precedence over others seeking asylum.
A father and son fled Angola to find refuge in Britain. The father’s 2001 petition for asylum got caught up in a four-year backlog. One night, eight officers raided their home. Handcuffed, father and son were taken to a privately run deportation center. They were slated to be deported the following morning.
Antonio Bravo’s father couldn’t let that happen. Shortly after midnight, Mr. Bravo hanged himself with a bed sheet in a stairwell. He left a note saying that he did this so his son could stay in Britain. The law did not allow authorities to deport an orphan with no one waiting for him. Can you imagine? It was from that time forward Antonio would have to live up to his name. Not only be brave but adaptable.
Fast forward to now. Antonio is nineteen. Rather than qualifying for citizenship this year as expected, the law was changed. His temporary residency permit, granted on humanitarian grounds, is expiring and he has no recourse available. There has been increasing pressure to change the laws, make it harder to gain asylum because of job competition, use of public services, and well, prejudice against certain groups of immigrants.
So this child, now young man, who has lived most of his life in England, the only home he knows, may once again lose everything.
The stories of immigrants, then and now, run the spectrum of tragic to jubilant. Now with political pressure on the extremes, the stories lean to the tragic side.
Which leads me to the question of home and what that means. It is a recurring theme in STANDING ON THE CORNER OF LOST AND FOUND. “Home was home. When you lose that, your life is upended, and it changes you forever.”
There is dramatic loss of home and family in situations like Antonio Bravo’s. But there is also the other side of the issue— those who may have to leave their home country and never quite feel comfortable in their adopted one. Others are uprooted by death of parents, or divorce. Some people experience an internal rootlessness and don’t feel at home anywhere.
What is the nature of home in psychological and physical terms? And what does it take to rebuild the concept of home? Where is your home?