Remembering Frankie Madrid

Cruelty of the U.S. Immigration Law

On October 3, 2017, I woke up to a message sent to me late the night before that Frankie Madrid took his life. I felt incredibly upset because his death could have been prevented. The cruel immigration law of this country is what really took his life. I can’t imagine being sent to an exile to a foreign country I have no connections to without the ability to see my family ever again. The cruelty of his situation is incomprehensible to most of us.

Frankie was, and in our hearts still is, a real human being who did a lot of good in his short life. He was active in the LGBTQ+ community, serving on the board of Northern Arizona Pride, worked with people with disabilities, and provided his support for a number of candidates seeking offices, while helping to take care of his mom and his family. He was an engaged citizen without the documents to prove it. We force undocumented immigrants to live in the shadows of our society, we exploit them as Frankie Madrid helping to campaign for Eva Putzova in 2014cheap labor, while at the same time expect them to be superhuman and never make a mistake. Deporting people for whom the US is the only home they have ever known doesn’t benefit anybody at all. Flagstaff was not made better by deporting Frankie.

Frankie got into legal trouble but paid his debt to society. America was made whole. He was rehabilitated by serving his 1.5-year sentence. His trouble with criminal law should be a completely separate issue from his undocumented status under the immigration law. In what meaningful way was he different than any other citizen—naturalized or US-born that he deserved to be exiled?

Frankie’s story sheds a critical light on issues that intersect immigration policies, drug addiction, the role of punishment within the justice system, our own view on rehabilitation, xenophobia, LGBTQ+ community, human compassion, and politics.

We need a complete overhaul of the immigration law. We need to help young people who came to this country as children and we need to help their parents. We need to stop criminalizing people for their desires to have a better life. There’s only one constituency that has any reasonable political standing in the immigration issue: the Indigenous People. We should ask them to help us create the kind of immigration system they wish was in place in 1492.