Reaching Across Borders, and Across the Table


Cooking Up Resistance in Court

Patrick loves cooking for his family. It's one thing that reminds him of home: all the homes he's had from Jamaica to Philadelphia to Georgia. And while his homecooked meals have nourished his children throughout their lives and pleased guests from every corner of the diaspora, he struggled for years for the right to remain on the same soil as his family. And in a harsh system that punishes those who have forged human relationships that don't comply with immigration laws, he struggled to prove that he was entitled to stay by strutting his stuff...as a chef. Indefensible tells the story of his day in court:

'She said, “What kind of food?” So, I said, ‘Curried chicken, jerk chicken, stewed chicken, oxtail. And I got my own recipe to make mango chicken.’ It’s just so they could season. She said, “Tell me.” I tell her I could season up my chicken and pour mango juice in it when I season it up and make it marinate overnight.'
The hearing lasted an hour.
'She make the decision right there in front of me and my lawyer and then my lawyer you know he. He pat me on my back you know. And I tell him, ‘Congratulations.’

 

In immigration court, it's often the judge who gives the orders, not the chef serving them up. But there's always room for a good story. Call it food for the soul.

--Michelle Chen

 

Cooking Up Resistance

Patrick Thaxter is a former chef who now works quietly in the kitchen of a good friend in Germantown, Philadelphia. Originally from Jamaica, he traveled to the U.S. for a soccer tournament eighteen years ago. On that trip, he met an American woman at a Miami club and the two fell in love. After impressing her with his curry chicken recipe, as he recounts, the two got married; he obtained a greencard; and eventually, they had three daughters.

Later on, Patrick became head chef of Mango Bush, a popular Jamaican restaurant, where many customers once flocked for his curry chicken and stewed peas. Patrick’s life was suddenly shook up after his brother passed away. The restaurant closed down for a month while he took care of the funeral matters in Kingston, the brothers’ hometown. Now short on cash, Patrick accepted a friend’s risky offer for help – and ended up getting arrested for a marijuana offense in Philadelphia. Instead of prison time, however, Patrick was sentenced to probation, which was later reduced to two years.

ICE arrested Patrick at one of his probation visits. As a greencard holder, ICE could deport Patrick over this one and only conviction from years back. Like many immigrants with old convictions, Patrick feared he would be banned from the U.S. – from his daughters, his craft, and his community – for life.

A cruel double punishment that U.S. immigration law allows for and regularly imposes on non-citizens.

Brought to you by audio producer (and former CultureStrike team member) Will Coley, for Indefensible, a project of the Immigrant Defense Project. Hear more episodes of Indefensible and subscribe at Immigrant Defense Project.

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