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Monday, December 14, 2009

Max Cleland, depression, the cosmological constant and me

By Sean Cruz

Portland--

Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland recently stated that his episodes with depression were more painful than when both of his legs and an arm were blown off during the U.S-Viet Nam war.

Quoted in his new book, he said: “…I go into a massive, deep, dark depression and I get to where I don’t want to live…When your brain is compromised, and your body is riding high with massive anxiety and you can’t shake it, it’s a terrible feeling. And you cannot concentrate. You cannot read.”

I know this part well.

By the time ten months had passed after my four children had disappeared into theocratic Utah, my depression had become so severe that I lost the ability to read.

Reading was my lifelong escape, my place to go in good times and bad and in every other spare moment, but the depression took that away. No escaping from this!

Reading (and writing) was also how I made my living at the time, working as a newspaper editor, and the depression took that away, too, by the end of 1996, ten months into this long nightmare.

The reading didn’t come back for more than a year, gradually, short pieces only, maybe a paragraph or two and then the heartache would take over again.

Loss of concentration, waves of stomach pain…hopelessness….

For any person, the loss of four children is a question of survival.

I had the honor of meeting Max Cleland in 2008, a quiet moment at Portland State University, where he was appearing in support of soon-to-be U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

I told him about my two sons, Aaron and Tyler, who I’d seen off to the war in Iraq, and how neither had come home, and he hugged me with his one arm….

The best part of many days has been escaping into sleep at night, even more important when reading is not an option.

But sleeping has its dangers, too…dreams of my missing children…they remain young forever…can’t quite find them…frantic, looking for them…heart pounding, high anxiety…starting to wake up…fighting that, I want to keep looking, keep looking…keep looking…try to rescue them…heart….

I wake up and the nightmare is real.

Every day, nearly 14 years now.

Sometimes the insomnia takes away the sleep and sometimes reading is difficult.

The only constant is the heartache, that never dims, infuses the universe like the cosmological constant….

My children remain out of reach….

Sleep beckons….

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Witchi-Tai-To" Important Jim Pepper festival announcement coming soon! ...oh hell!

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--"Witchi-Tai-To"...Gunther Schuller...Portland Chamber Orchestra...Jim Pepper Remembrance Band...David Ornette Cherry...Ed Edmo...many more...Fall 2010...Portland State University, Dept of Native American Studies...1st annnual.... Details, announcements to follow soon!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sarah Palin prospective cabinet taking shape

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--According to her new book, “Going Rogue”, Sarah Palin is planning to find a suitable cabinet post for Joe the Plumber, “where he can do lots of thinkin’ and stuff”.

In a late breaking development, still steaming from her prank telephone conversation last year with “the President of France”, the former Governor of Alaska is reported to be in discussions with Carrie Prejean, on the short list to join the Palin team as press secretary.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Breaking news! Sara Palin's book to be bundled with crayons!

Portland, Oregon--You heard it here first! Sara Palin's new book will be bundled with crayons! Recognizing that the people most likely to appreciate "Going Rogue" are unfamiliar with actual books, the publishers are tossing a box of crayons into the deal. The thing is, all of the colors are red....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cruz kidnapper confrontation earns commendation from judge!

See you next year, judge rules!
By Sean Cruz


It took 14 years to get Kory Wright, the organizer of my children’s kidnapping, into a courtroom, and that drama played out today.

The courtroom opportunity took place as a result of my confrontation with this criminal in the lobby of the Vancouver Hilton Hotel, where I slapped him with a copy of Aaron’s Law, Oregon’s anti-kidnapping statute…

…bounced it right off of his face…, telling him: “Oregon’s Aaron’s Law was written for people like you, motherfucker. You are served!”

Kory Wright was asking for a permanent Order For Protection From Unlawful Civil Harassment, which would restrain me from entering or being within 250 feet of his home or of Columbia Ultimate, his place of employment.

The judge heard me out…you lose track of time in there…she listened to me explain the Order for Joint Custody that had protected my children for four years…

She listened to me describe how Kory Wright, motivated by his rabid Mormon zealotry, had violated that order and criminal statutes in three states, but there had been no investigation and the statute of limitations had run on those crimes….

The judge saw documentation detailing Kory Wright’s criminal conduct…there was no question about whether he violated the law or not, that was easy to show….

The judge heard me describe my history of work on the issue of parental and family abductions:

My testimony on Kory Wright’s criminal conduct before the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee and the Joint Ways and Means Public Safety Committee in 2003….

My testimony on Kory Wright’s criminal conduct before the Senate President’s Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions in 2004….

My assignment, as Senator Avel Gordly’s Chief of Staff, to lead her workgroup on Senate Bill 1041 in the 2005 legislative session….

My 2005 testimony on Kory Wright’s criminal conduct before the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Rules Committee and the House State and Federal Affairs Committee….

The 2005 passage of Senate Bill 1041 on a unanimous House vote…the bill became known as Aaron’s Law after the death of my son….

I showed the judge a photograph of my family—my children and I—taken before the abduction, and a photograph of Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signing the bill into law with Aaron’s picture on his desk….

The judge asked me questions…What does Aaron’s Law do?...I described the law…explained that it provides an alternative to traditional criminal and family law procedures….

I described how both the criminal and family law systems had failed in response to the abduction of my children, and how common the problem is….

The judge asked me if there were any other legal avenues available regarding my quest for justice against Kory Wright (and the other criminals)….

I explained that custodial interference statutes have a 3-year statute of limitations, even if the children remain kidnapped, and that fact plus the inaction of law enforcement had allowed Kory Wright and the other criminals to escape justice.

I said that I had hoped that she would find Kory Wright’s conduct offensive and that she might order him jailed today on a perjury charge….

We discussed the fact that my “service” of Aaron’s Law on Kory Wright was an intentionally symbolic act, and not a legal process. I had not gone to the Hilton in order to get into a scuffle but to serve a document…there was a larger public purpose at stake.

I described my ongoing efforts to raise public awareness of the crime of abduction by persons known to the child or to members of the child’s family….

We talked about the Hilton confrontation. If he hadn’t smiled, I wouldn’t have thrown the envelope at him, I explained. He smiled, I threw it at his face….

After some deliberation, the judge handed down her order:

“Mr. Cruz, I see that you are an intelligent man, and I commend you for your work on these issues….”

She then ordered the Protective Order into effect until October 27, 2010.

Kory Wright protested…he was asking for a permanent order….

“You will have to file again next year”, the judge said.

Next case.

Looks like I will be seeing my children’s kidnapper again, this time next year….

I'll be seeing you, motherfucker...!

I wonder how soon/often he is planning to set foot in Oregon…home of Aaron’s Law…?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sean Cruz busts another illegal Sergeant's tow!!

Brazen daylight grab thwarted!!

Portland, Oregon—

I caught another Sergeant’s tow driver attempting an illegal heist of my neighbor’s car from his designated parking spot yesterday afternoon.

The Sergeant’s tow-jacker was in the act of telling the neighbor that his car didn’t have the proper Hacienda CDC tag and he was therefore impounding the vehicle when he saw me coming and changed his mind about going through with the tow, just like that!

We’ve been down this path before, and Sergeant’s towed a tenant’s vehicle from its designated spot back there, in clear violation of Oregon statute, just a couple of weeks ago.

I informed the neighbor about his rights under Senate Bill 431 (2007), to wit: If your rental or lease agreement provides for a designated parking spot, then they need your permission before they can tow the vehicle. This is the law!!!

This law has been on the books for more than two years now, but Sergeant’s is counting on (your) lack of awareness, continuing to make illegal tows all over town.

It’s a tough economy for predatory patrol towers, too….

Remember, the entire organization runs on commission. I understand that the new rate for towjacking your vehicle is a ransom of $340, plus whatever other fees they can pile on.

In absolute fairness to Sergeant’s Towing, they are making the tows under an agreement with the property owner, Hacienda CDC.

Hacienda CDC operates in a de facto partnership with Sergeant’s and Retriever Towing, has done so for years. Hacienda CDC owns the real estate and gives towing predators carte blanche, authorizing commission-paid drivers to tow at will, without regard for the laws protecting tenants from illegal tows.

Hacienda CDC is therefore the most prolific authorizer-of-predatory-towing in all of Northeast Portland, responsible for sending many a tow truck driver to sunny Baja, year after year, tow after tow, $340 bucks a pop now….

And they call it affordable housing….

Hacienda’s clout in City Hall and on the PDC, however, enables the organization to carve out an illegal towaway zone from public right-of-way at it’s NE 42nd Ave offices, for the convenience of its staff.

I reported on this fact before, and Hacienda CDC staff heard from the City of Portland that their “Hacienda parking only” signage was illegal, but the signs are still there….

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Triple-threat deterrence: How Oregon's Aaron's Law can prevent a kidnapping

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--With more than 200,000 US children suffering parental and family abductions every year, year after year, it is clear that current criminal and family law remedies are inadequate.

Far too often, people decide to abduct their own children (or, like Kory Wright, to take part in the abduction of someone else’s children), knowingly committing a criminal act, because they realize that they are likely to get away with it. They usually do.

Some 20% of parental and family abductions involve more than one perpetrator, and not all perpetrators are either family members or known to the child(ren).

Some abductions are impulsive or taken in haste. Others might be the result of much pre-planning, where the perpetrators coldly resolve well in advance to take a course of criminal conduct that will shatter the lives of their young victims.

Aaron’s Law fills key gaps, skirting both the criminal and family law processes to offer triple-threat deterrence, real reasons for many a would-be perpetrator to reconsider.

Oregon’s unique law also provides several new tools to resolve these soul-crushing conflicts where children are abducted by persons they love and trust.

Triple-threat deterrence

1. Under Aaron’s Law, the Court can immediately order the parties into counseling directed at educating the parties to the harm their actions are causing the children, and order them to pay the cost of the counseling.

2. Under Aaron’s Law, the Court can immediately assign a mental health professional and a legal advocate to protect the wellbeing of the children, and order the parties to the conflict to pay for these services as well.

3. Also under Aaron’s Law, both adult and child victims have recourse against
the perpetrators for special, general and punitive damages, for the cost of a life, for the loss of a future, for the destruction of a personality.

Had these provisions been in effect in 1996, my children would have been kept safe, and my son would still be alive today. There would have been no abduction.

Kory Wright would have been subject to Aaron’s Law, and this fact alone would have dissuaded him from organizing and perpetuating the crime. That’s the bottom line.


More on this later, to be sure….


I’ve written extensively about the kidnapping and Aaron’s Law in earlier posts on www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com and www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Link to Senate Bill 1041, Aaron’s Law:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/05reg/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1041.en.pdf

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Aaron's Law with my son's photo on his desk



Chronology of Aaron's Law


In 2003, I testified to Kory Wright’s criminal involvement in the abduction of my children before the Oregon State Senate Judiciary Committee and the Joint Ways and Means Public Safety Subcommittee , about the “taking, enticing and keeping” of my children in violation of the Order for Joint Custody.

Also in 2003, Senate President Peter Courtney appointed the Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, which met in 2004 and reported its findings to the 2005 Oregon Legislature.

The blue-ribbon Abduction Task Force was co-chaired by Senators Avel Gordly and Frank Morse.

The Task Force included: Hon. Judge Maureen McKnight; former Senator John Minnis (Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training); Liss Hart-Haviv of Take Root; Judy Hayes of the Oregon State Police, Missing Children’s Clearing House; Mickey Lansing of the Oregon Commission on Children and Families; Sybil Hebb of the Oregon Law Center; Madeline Olson of the Department of Human Services; Ronelle Shenkle of the Department of Justice; BeaLisa Sydlik of the Judicial Department; Patrick Callahan of the District Attorneys Association; and, Denise Washington of the Domestic Violence Coalition.

I testified before the Parental and Family Abduction Task Force in 2004.

Among its findings: “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, in 1999 an estimated 203, 900 children were victims of family abductions with 20 percent of the abductions involving more than one perpetrator. Although there are no numbers for Oregon regarding parental abductions (emphasis added), the Task Force is of the opinion that the rate of parental abductions in Oregon mirrors the rate for the country. In other words, there appear to be at least 5,000 parental abductions in Oregon every year. These abductions are illegal; they cause a tremendous amount of grief and anxiety for the parent or guardian with legal custody, and they cause immeasurable damage, both psychological and sometimes physical, to the abducted child.”

At the beginning of the 2005 legislative session, Senator Gordly tasked me with leading the workgroup on her Senate Bill 1041, which, after the death of my son, became known as Aaron’s Law.

In 2005, I testified on Senate Bill 1041 before the Senate Judiciary Committee and then before the Senate Rules Committee and the House State and Federal Affairs Committee, describing the multi-perpetrator criminal abduction of my children.

Aaron’s Law passed the Senate on a 26-3 vote and the House on a unanimous 59-0 vote as the 2005 legislative session came to an end.

Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law with Aaron’s picture on his desk.

In April, 2006, Aaron’s Law was among the featured sessions at “Out of the Frying Pan: Burning Issues in Access to Justice”, the Oregon Judicial Department and the State Family Law Advisory Committee’s fourth annual Family Law Conference.

Hon. Paul J. De Muniz, Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court wrote:

“I am pleased to inform you that the State Family Law Advisory Committee is offering a workshop on parental abductions at its fourth Family Law Conference…. The curriculum for the workshop will include education on the nature of the problem, information about case studies from a practicing psychotherapist and two attorneys, information about Aaron’s Law (SB 1041), and existing statutory remedies in Oregon to enforce parenting plans and prevent abduction in the context of family law proceedings.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sean Cruz's confrontation with his childrens' kidnapper moves to Clark County courtroom!

Portland, Oregon--

At long last,14 years after Kory Wright organized the disappearance of my four children, I will face him in a court of law, in the same building where my Order for Joint Custody had originated.

Korwin Jay Wright didn’t like being served with a copy of Aaron’s Law, Oregon Senate Bill 1041 (2005), and has filed for an Order for Protection, stating under penalty of perjury that “…I feel Mr. Cruz represents an immediate threat to me, my family and others.”

The kidnapper alleges that unlawful harassment has occurred.

The document states: “Unlawful harassment means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses, or is detrimental to such person and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.”

I’m glad that the subject of “a knowing and willful course of conduct” will be part of the discussion, because it describes Kory Wright’s years-long actions in violating the Order for Joint Custody that once protected my children and kept their lives orderly and secure.

I’m also open to discussion regarding whether the incident “serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.”

FYI, neither Kory Wright nor any member of his family is related in any way to my family or to my former wife’s family. His involvement in the kidnapping of my children was motivated by his own extremist religious views and enabled by his position in the Mormon church, which he used, violating a trust relationship, to further the kidnapping over a years-long period of time.

It is a felony under Oregon statute to “take, entice or keep” a child in violation of a valid joint custody order, which is exactly what Kory Wright did. There was never a police investigation, and he was never charged with the crime.

Technically, the immediate crimes he committed were Custodial Interference I and II, both serious felonies with penalties of up to five years in prison.

An investigation would have shown that Kory Wright became involved in planning the disappearance of my children and their concealment in Utah several months before the actual kidnapping took place.

If we were talking about a stolen load of lumber or a pallet of printers or a car theft operation, there would have been charges of conspiracy and other related crimes added to the docket, both state and federal, and all of the defendants in court….

But the System handles child abduction cases where a family member is involved differently from the way stranger kidnappings are handled, ignoring the roles non-family members play in carrying out the crimes, focusing on just the parents, which often obscures the real picture and allows criminal conduct to go unaddressed.

More than 200,000 US children suffer an abduction where a parent or family member is involved every year, year after year…the System fails to make a dent in the numbers.

Child abductions by any party are so heinous, so damaging to the children and so costly to the victims’ families that the best solution is to deter these kidnappings from happening in the first place.

Aaron’s Law offers new tools to deter and resolve child abduction by any parties.

Aaron’s Law is landmark legislation, unique in the nation, and I hope to see it enacted by every state in the USA.

The fact is that, without Kory Wright, my children would have never been abducted….

…which is why I stated, when I served him with SB 1041, that Aaron’s Law was written for him and for people like him….

Aaron’s Law creates a civil cause of action that can only be triggered by the commission of a serious criminal act, the violation (in Oregon) of Custodial Interference I and II.

If Aaron’s Law had been on the books in 1995, Kory Wright would have faced an immediate lawsuit and would have been liable for the damage he caused my family to suffer, including “Special and general damages, including damages for emotional distress; and punitive damages.”

His Mormon zealotry would have never been sufficient to motivate him to get involved in violating the Order for Joint Custody of a family he barely knew, not if it was going to cost him money.

More on this later….


The hearing will take place in Clark County District Court, 1200 Franklin Street, Vancouver Washington on October 16, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.

The public is invited.


================


I’ve written extensively about the kidnapping and Aaron’s Law in earlier posts on www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com and www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Link to Senate Bill 1041, Aaron’s Law:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/05reg/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1041.en.pdf

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sean Cruz confronts man who kidnapped his children

Portland, Oregon—Fourteen years ago, Kory Wright organized the kidnapping of my four children, and today I walked into the lobby of the Vancouver Hilton Hotel and slapped him in the face with a copy of Senate Bill 1041, Aaron’s Law.

I became aware that he would be present at the Columbia Ultimate conference today, October 6, and I drove there with dual intentions: to confront this person who had done such grievous harm to my family; and to raise awareness of the issue of child abduction by persons known to the child or the child’s family.

He looked at me quizzically as I approached him, and I asked him if he remembered who I was…he was unsure….

“My name is Sean Cruz. You kidnapped my children, motherfucker.”

He remembered who I was then, smirked a little, thinking back to how good it felt to cause my children to disappear from their Oregon homes into the mountains east of Ogden, Utah, near where Kory Wright was living.

“Oregon’s Aaron’s Law was written for people like you, motherfucker,” I said, and bounced the envelope right off of his face. “You are served!” That ended the smirking.

The entire confrontation lasted less than 30 seconds. I was careful to keep to my talking points:

1. I am Sean Cruz
2. You kidnapped my children (motherfucker)!
3. You ruined six lives: mine, my mother's (who died four years later without seeing or hearing from her grandchildren again), and my four children (Natalia, Aaron, Tyler and Allie)
4. Aaron's Law was written for you, and people like you (motherfucker)!

Those were my words to Kory Wright, Mormon zealot.

To be specific, when my children disappeared on February 12, 1996, my former wife drove them directly to the home of Chris and Kory Wright, who were living east of Ogden, Utah at the time. It was at the Wright home that my children were first concealed.

Then I walked out of the hotel and drove to the Vancouver Columbian where I spoke at length with a reporter, about child abduction in general and the kidnapping of my children in particular.

My essential point was that Aaron’s Law is designed to deter non-stranger abductions, but it cannot possibly serve as a deterrent if no one knows it exists, and the Oregon State Bar hasn’t produced a single lawyer who is conversant with either the law or the issue.

It is a felony to “take, entice or keep” a child in violation of a valid joint custody order, which is exactly what Kory and Chris Wright did, Mormon zealots that they are. There was never a police investigation, and they were never charged with the crime.

I’ve written extensively about the kidnapping and Aaron’s Law in earlier posts.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Parable of the Wounded Frog

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon: I’ve begun work on my memoirs, “Reflections on My Kidnapped Life,” a combination of written and videotaped commentary.

I plan to open with my take on The Parable of the Boiled Frog.

The familiar story posits that a frog plunged into a pan of very hot water will immediately leap out to safety, but if the same frog is placed into a pan of water that is heated slowly, the frog will stay put and eventually be boiled alive.

I see the story played out with three changed circumstances: The first is that the water will never boil; the second is that the frog suffered a mortal wound before it was thrust into the pan; the third is that the wound is invisible to most observers.

In my version, the temperature of the water, even the fact that the frog is in the water, the water itself, is irrelevant to the frog.

The frog understands that the water will not likely get either so cold or so hot as to kill him.

The frog realizes that he has the brains, the strength and the survival skills to endure for a very long time. Whether he is in the water or not makes no difference to the frog.

The frog knows that he is dying of the Wound.

The frog’s friends and observers note that the frog is treading water and that the water temperature is reasonable.

Everyone, after all, has his or her own moments in the water, in the pan, on the stove.

Over the past fourteen years, the frog’s water has been sometimes colder and sometimes warmer. Only the Wound has been constant.

The frog has been in the water for so long, in fact, that observers see the frog always in terms of the water, only in terms of the water.

Sometimes friends cast food, theater tickets or irrelevant though well-meant advice into the water, but the dying frog faces the Wound alone.

This is The Parable of the Wounded Frog.


(ver 9/19/09)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Vicki Walker's Parole Board appointment supported

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Governor Kulongoski appointed Vicki Walker to chair the Oregon Parole Board, drawing some criticism to both officials and to the board itself.

This appointment is good for the People of Oregon. The Governor has placed the right person, capable of making Oregon safer on both a case by case basis and as broad public policy, in the right place, where she can do exactly that.

It is Vicki Walker's personal qualities and family history that make this appointment extraordinary.

I worked in the Oregon Senate for six years (2003-2008) and witnessed Senator Walker speaking in committee and on the senate floor countless times, perhaps most passionately over the issues that people find most difficult to talk about, relating to sex crimes and child abuse, family and shame.

Like her or her voting record or not, this lady is brimming with courage and determination and she has many other qualities and key experience that make her eminently well qualified to chair the Parole Board.

Vicki has already announced what her standards will be in language that every person coming before the Board will be able to understand: Do not bring any disciplinary writeups if you want to get out early. The standard is high. Do not attempt to blow smoke at the Parole Board. She won't take any nonsense from anybody, understands the fine details and her case notes will be precise.

This credibility has enormous value, as nearly everyone incarcerated will eventually be coming out. Most inmates will understand that clarity and focus will be rewarded; placing the public at risk will keep you where you are.

Oregon is not gaining a bureaucrat with this appointment. We are putting in place a real person who can make a real difference in recidivism, making every community in the state a safer place for all.

Governor Kulongoski made the right move here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Greatest Hits, Vol 1: White tide--not blue--sweeps the Oregon legislature

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—With Margaret Carter’s resignation from the Oregon Senate, Oregon’s Democratic delegation steps backward into yesteryear, when you had to be white to get elected in this state.

The last people of color left in the legislature are both Republicans, giving some serious cred to the “Party of Lincoln” sobriquet.

Every elected leader in the Portland Metro area, at the local, state and federal levels, are all white.

This is no coincidence, but the result of a system where prospective candidates are sifted through a process controlled exclusively by white people.

I wrote about this last November, in these two articles, one printed in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian: “A blue election tide—or a white one.”

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2008/11/a_blue_election_tide_or_a_whit.html

I wrote about the process in more detail in this article below, describing my experience as a minority candidate through a series of endorsement interviews, nearly all conducted by all-white panels. They weren’t going to support anyone that didn’t look like them.

“White tide—not blue—sweeps the Oregon House. The Senate is next!”

http://blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com/2008/11/white-tide-not-blue-sweeps-oregon-house.html

On a similar topic:

Remember the Measure 37 battles of recent years? You had to be white to have a Measure 37 claim, because in those days you had to be white to own property outside of certain redlined areas in the Oregon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

(37) Letters to Angela (Adams)

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--Between October 1998 and February 2000, I wrote 37 letters to Ms Angela Adams, one of the Guardians ad Litem that the Utah court had assigned to the case, ostensibly to protect the wellbeing of my children.

You have to understand that the case had been moved to Utah, and theocratic Utah can be as distant from America as Saudi Arabia when it comes to the rights of women, children and non-Mormon parents.

Two and a half years had passed since my children had disappeared, since my elderly and medically fragile mother had had any contact with her grandchildren, and I wrote dozens of letters to Angela, begging her to help us.

Nearly all of the letters went unanswered, these (excerpted) among them:


October 26, 1998

Ms Angela Adams
Office of the Guardian Ad Litem
32 West Center Street, Ste 205
Provo, UT 84601

Dear Ms. Adams:

Please be advised that Gina is again keeping the children incommunicado. Neither I nor any other member of my family has been able to reach them. This is a very typical pattern. It is not unusual, since Gina disappeared with the kids, for no one to answer the phone in the children’s home for weeks—even months—at a time.

My mother (the children’s sole surviving grandparent) continues to lie in a hospital bed without any contact with her grandchildren. She has been hospitalized since June after having been homebound for the past five years. She contracted pneumonia last week.

She has not seen her grandchildren since early February 1996 (the day before Gina vanished with the children).

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=====================

November 2, 1998

Ms Angela Adams
Office of the Guardian Ad Litem
32 West Center Street, Ste 205
Provo, UT 84601

Dear Ms. Adams:

My mother has still not heard a word from the kids. She does not have a lot of time left, and is suffering memory loss. She really needs to hear her grandchildren’s voices, and the kids need to have a connection to her.

These kids need to be able to communicate with us. I hope that you can do something to help.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=================

February 3, 1999

Ms Angela Adams
Office of the Guardian Ad Litem
32 West Center Street, Ste 205
Provo, UT 84601

Dear Ms Adams:

I believe that it is important that the children have some quality time with their grandmother this summer. She has been hospitalized since June 1998 and will probably remain in residential care permanently. Gina has not permitted the children to contact their grandmother even once. Out of the $800 per month in child support that I am paying Gina each month, she ought to be able to find a few dollars for a phone call. The children have not seen or had meaningful contact with their grandmother since Gina disappeared with the kids nearly three years ago. Gina unilaterally changed the visitation pattern from daily contact to zero.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=================

February 22, 1999


Dear Ms Adams:

I have received no communication from either Gina or her last known attorney, Mr. Thomas, in reply to my request for visitation time with my children.

As I stated several times before, I am completely agreeable to visitation circumstances as your office wishes to arrange.

My goal is to restore normal and consistent visitation with each of my children. I also wish to restore my children’s normal contact with their grandmother.


Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

==================

May 17, 1999

Dear Ms. Adams:

Location of my children remains unknown

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=============

May 24, 1999


Dear Ms. Adams:

I have to say that I am really very unhappy with where we all are in this case at the present moment. I have acted in good faith, with the expectation that all the other parties would act in good faith, and that my family might have an opportunity for healing and normalization, and that my children’s best interests might at long last be served.

I have stated and written many times about my concerns for summer visitation, and have given warnings about how Gina will manipulate the situation so that the entire summer passes and no visitation will occur.

But here we are, with the last day of school three days away, and absolutely nothing is settled for summer visitation, not even a date in court on the calendar. How can any family be expected to thrive under these conditions? I have been asking for court action regarding summer visitation for more than six months.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

==============

October 5, 1999

Dear Ms. Adams:

The children remain incommunicado. I call several times daily. Day after day, week after week, month after month, and now shortly going into the fourth year of this nightmare.

On those occasions when I am able to contact the kids, they always tell me that they are hardly ever home. Either way, whether they are hardly ever home or they are not permitted to answer the phone, these are signs of an unhealthy home environment.

I have been in contact with Payson Senior High and learned that Gina continues to enroll the children without listing me as a parent. She has been doing this for five years. The school continues to list Steve Nielson (her 4th ex-husband) as parent/guardian, which is no longer true. I want to be listed as the children’s father.

Tomorrow, October 6, is Tyler’s birthday. I would like to have some contact with him. According to our lawful parenting plan, Gina and I are to alternate birthdays with each child. She his prevented this contact from occurring, even by telephone, ever since she disappeared with the kids. It is detrimental to a child’s emotional wellbeing to be manipulated like this. I ask that you break through somehow so that I may have a little time with my son.

Sincerely,

Sean Cruz

==============


October 19, 1999

Dear Ms. Adams:

The visitation by phone that you arranged for did not occur. No one answered the phone at the scheduled time, nor at 15 minutes past the hour. Gina’s unwillingness to act in good faith continues unabated.

Is there any portion of our Parenting Plan that will be honored in the state of Utah?

I have a right to access to my children’s medical records. I am particularly concerned about Aaron’s depression. How can I get meaningful information here?

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

==================

November 22, 1999


Dear Ms. Adams:

I briefly spoke to Gina Saturday morning 11/20 at 9:30 a.m. PST. She refused to let me speak to the kids and hung up the phone. She said that she personally is rarely home. The kids are generally left to their own devices, and are not often “home” themselves, so the opportunity to speak to them does not come very often.

The kids have told me—on those rare occasions when I am able to get through—that they receive none of the messages that I leave for them, and that they have no access to the number needed to retrieve messages. They have no way of knowing that their father is trying to reach them, and no access to the messages.

On Sunday, Gina placed a block on her phone, preventing me from contacting the children from my personal phone. I am hereby requesting that you do something to change this. The phone number she has blocked is (503) 701-6036. Gina has stood in court in three states and sworn under oath that she does nothing to discourage contact and in fact encourages it—and yet the truth is in her actions. Someday, there will be a time and a place and a court that will actually examine the record and do something to right this wrong.

Gina continues to have the schools list Steve Nielson as the children’s “step-parent or guardian”, of which he is neither. Can something be done about this?

This week is Thanksgiving. According to our Parenting Plan—as well as normal human decency—there should be some contact. Christmas is coming as well. What do you recommend that we do about this? According to the plan, we are to alternate years. Gina has unilaterally seized all holidays for the past (nearly) four years. The only holiday contact that I have been able to have was two years ago, after the Washington court found her in contempt.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

==========================


November 23, 1999


Dear Ms. Adams:

I spoke yesterday with Cheryl Vernon, Aaron’s resource teacher at Payson HS, and learned the following:

She hasn’t seen Aaron in two months.

She has been unable to contact Gina.

She understands that the kids have moved again.

Aaron’s report card was marked “return to sender” and returned to the school. I think that this simple fact speaks volumes about Gina’s actual involvement with the kids.

My concern for Aaron increases with each passing day.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

===============

December 3, 1999

Dear Ms. Adams:

I spoke today with Steven Taylor, Aaron’s former counselor, and learned that they have checked Aaron out of school. Aaron hasn’t been there, and they haven’t seen or heard from Gina in a long time.

Curiously, they have heard from Gina’s friend Dale, and understand that he is playing some sort of foster parent role with my children in Gina’s absence. School officials have the impression that Gina spends very little time at home with the children.

As expected, Gina remains completely non-cooperative regarding holiday phone visitation.

Today is Day 1382 (nearly four years) since Gina disappeared with the children.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=============

December 22, 1999


Dear Ms. Adams:

Thank you for your reply.

As for Aaron’s schooling, I am completely at a loss as to why anyone is “comfortable” with the present situation.

I would like very much to have some time to speak with my children on Christmas Day. Gina is chronically non-cooperative on holidays, birthdays and other special days, which—again—is a violation of the Parenting Plan and Stipulated Agreement. I will take any time at all on Christmas Day.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

==========

February 1, 2000

Dear Ms. Adams:

I have often stated that Gina’s refusal to allow the children to have contact with their grandmother is detrimental. That situation continues.

Now we have come to a point where my mother’s ability to communicate is deteriorating drastically. Would it be too much to ask that the children have an opportunity to call their grandmother and have what may be their last intelligible conversation?

I have requested previously that I have an opportunity to speak to my daughter on her birthday. That day is tomorrow, and I have heard nothing from your office on the matter.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz


=======================

February 3, 2000


Dear Ms. Adams:


Gina failed to provide my daughter for the scheduled birthday phone visit—once again. I called at 15-minute intervals between 9:00 and 10:00 pm MST per your arrangements, and no one answered the phone.

My mother’s situation is grave. She has been moved to the hospital for pneumonia, and her mental condition has taken a sudden turn for the worse. She is, for example, unable to connect the sound of the telephone ringing with actually answering it. I am able to converse with her only with the help of a nurse. It would bring my mother the greatest joy to hear her grandchildren’s voices. She has not seen her grandchildren since Gina disappeared with the kids four years ago.

I repeat my contention that Gina’s conscious estrangement of the children from their grandmother is abusive.


Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=======================

February 8, 2000


Dear Ms. Adams:

Last night’s prearranged phone visit did not occur. I called four times during the hour and—yet again—Gina did not provide the kids. It must be clear by now that she has no intention of keeping her agreements or dealing with your office honestly.

When I discussed the scheduled phone visits with Aaron, he stated that Gina had never told him about them. I am able to converse with Aaron regularly by calling the house where he actually lives (with his friends), not the house where children aren’t permitted to answer the phone.

February 12 will mark the fourth anniversary of the day Gina took the kids out of school and vanished.

I remain my children’s father, day in and day out.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

==================

February 10, 2000

Dear Ms. Adams:

My mother is rapidly losing the ability to communicate effectively. Would it be too much to ask that she receive one final phone call from her grandchildren? She is unable to dial the phone herself, and the children aren’t permitted to answer the phone in their “home” anyway.


Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

================

February 22, 2000


Dear Ms. Adams:

My mother’s condition has deteriorated to the point that she may not be able to have a conversation with the kids. She has very little time left. The nurse reports that she is lethargic, doesn’t respond to attempts by the hospital staff to communicate, and refuses food and medication.

I had this dream that she would hear her grandchildren’s voices one more time, and I had hoped that your office might be some help.

Gina continued to fail to provide the children for the scheduled phone visit on Sunday and Monday, once again.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=====================

February 28, 2000

Dear Ms. Adams:

My mother passed away on Saturday. Gina did not permit the children to contact her before she died.

On Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. MST, I called to tell my kids about their grandmother’s passing. Gina answered the phone. I explained the reason for my call. She told me that the kids were still asleep, refused to allow me to talk to the kids, and hung up the phone.

This week, we will bury the children’s grandmother, and with her we will place a photograph of her grandchildren the way she remembered them—the way they looked 1468 days ago—when Gina stole them away in the dark of night.

Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

=================

I never wrote to Angela Adams again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 6: The little girl in the blue dress

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

How long does a father's love last? MSNBC’s Dateline asked the question….

When Richard Pulsifer arrived to see his children, 6-year-old Richard, Jr. and 3-year-old Michelle, on a summer day in 1969, he found that the house where his former wife and her new boyfriend had been living was empty.

He went to the authorities, to law enforcement but was rebuffed at every turn. No one was willing to take the children’s disappearance seriously.

The police wouldn’t take a missing persons report, because the children were presumed to be with their mother, who had full custody. She had the right to do whatever she wanted to do with the children.

A recent story on MSNBC’s Dateline tells this tragic story of a parental kidnapping, of a father’s broken heart, of a little girl who fell through the cracks in the worst possible way….

“(MSNBC): Even though Donna had full custody of the kids, Dick had never imagined that his ex-wife and her boyfriend could just take the kids and vanish without his permission. He immediately complained to local authorities.

“Dick Pulsifer: ‘I went to the social services. Told them-- I said, "They can't do that. It's illegal." And they said, "Well, yes, she can. She's got full custody; she can do what she wants."

“(MSNBC): He was helpless -- and heart sick. Where were they? It would be months, and he'd receive another blow -- news that his wife and son were accounted for, but his daughter, Michelle, was not. Somehow, Michelle was gone.”

Michelle had vanished from the face of the earth.

All that was left was a handful of photographs, memories, and a father’s love.

He began a search for his little girl that would take years, decades, lifetimes….

“(MSNBC) John Larson: ’What is life like when you have to wonder and look at every little girl you see?’

Dick Pulsifer: ‘You're always seeing that child somewhere, walking through a crowd. Wow, that could have been her, you know.’

(MSNBC) John Larson: ‘And this isn't like once a year.’

Dick Pulsifer: ‘No, it's all the time.’”

Nearly forty years after Michelle vanished, the police finally took the case of the missing little girl seriously enough to open an investigation.

See the story of Michelle Pulsifer, here:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23592454/


=========

Coming next:

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 7: Comments on “The little girl in the blue dress”

=========

Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at http://www.parentalabductionlaw.blogspot.com

Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at http://www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Blogolitical Sean at http://www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com


Resources:

Take Root link: Survivors of parental and family abductions speak out
http://www.takeroot.org/flash.php


Link to Find the Children: Become aware; Save a child’s life

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2008/news/find.the.children/index.html

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 5: Oregon's anti-kidnapping law

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 200,000 American children experience the trauma of abduction by a parent, a family member or other persons known to the victim.

Some children are abducted back and forth repeatedly, others disappear forever.

Existing state and federal laws have proven to be inadequate to deal with the problem, as the staggering numbers attest.

In all cases, the harm to the child victim is so severe that the best strategy is to prevent the abduction from taking place in the first place.

Aaron’s Law, Senate Bill 1041, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2005, is designed to provide relief to the victims of parental and family abductions and to deter parents from kidnapping their own children in the first place through financial and other sanctions.

Aaron’s Law is unique in the nation, bypassing the criminal and traditional family court approaches by creating a civil cause of action for the crime of custodial interference, which applies if the child is removed from the state of Oregon.

Aaron’s Law is named in memory of Aaron Cruz, who was abducted from Oregon along with his brother and two sisters in 1996 by his mother, other family members and several of their church associates, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot who is completely unrelated to any member of the Cruz family, led this group, which included David Holliday and Evelyn Taylor, Mormon officials in the Hillsboro area.

Aaron later died, essentially from long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, alone in an empty house in Payson, Utah, where his mother had
taken him, concealed him and then left him behind.

Aaron’s Law operates as a deterrent to parental and family abductions by providing financial sanctions against all participants in the crime, those who “take, entice or keep” a child from the child’s lawful custodial parent or in violation of a joint custody order.

Aaron’s Law also operates as a deterrent by authorizing the Court to appoint legal and mental health professionals assigned to protect the child.

Aaron’s Law contains a provision authorizing the Court to require the parties to attend counseling sessions to understand the harm they are inflicting on their own children.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to assess the costs of the professional services to the perpetrators, an additional financial deterrent.

Aaron’s Law may apply to any Oregon child abduction occurring after the date the Governor signed the bill into law.

While this law applies only to children taken from the state of Oregon, it can serve as a model for other states.

Link to Aaron’s Law:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/05reg/measpdf/sb1000.dir/sb1041.en.pdf
=========

Coming next: Parental abduction wisdom, pt 6:

=========

Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at http://www.parentalabductionlaw.blogspot.com
Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at http://www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Blogolitical Sean at http://www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 4: Parental kidnappings up 70%

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

“’Right then, I knew my life was over….’”

“American Janet Greer lost her 3-year-old daughter, Dowsha, 12 years ago when her boyfriend took the child from Hawaii to Egypt. She had pleaded with a judge for sole custody when the unmarried couple split fearing her ex might flee. The judge refused. Her worst fear was realized when Dowsha never returned from a weekend visit with her father.

"’Right then I knew my life was over,’ recalled Greer. ‘Right then I knew he had her.’

“Greer fought for years to see her daughter, even winning a ruling in the Egyptian courts. The ruling was never enforced.” (Source: ABC News)

The U.S. State Department reports that parental abductions involving American children are rising. There were more than 1,000 new cases of American children taken by a parent to another country in 2008 — a 70 percent increase in the past two years.

There is probably a corresponding increase in the number of domestic U.S. parental abductions, but that data is difficult to find.

The U.S. Department of Justice has calculated the total number of parental abductions across the U.S. at more than 200,000 cases each year.

This figure is probably an undercount, as many parental abduction cases that are reported to local law enforcement by victims go no further than that.

In Oregon, for example, the State Police operates its Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, but the OSP rarely receives reports regarding abducted children from local police agencies and its clearinghouse site is both hard to find and updated infrequently.

http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/MCC/child_index.shtml

The unstable U.S. economy is one factor behind the increase in international parental abductions. It has led to layoffs of foreign-born workers, which might prompt a parent to return to his or her home country and take a child with them.

Other reasons include the increase in binational marriages and the combination of international travel and divorce.

“’The international tug-of-wars get even more difficult to resolve when nations
disagree on which parent should keep a child. It's not just a U.S. trend, it's a worldwide trend,’ said Julie Furuta-Toy, director of the Office of Children's Issues at the U.S. Department of State.

"’In the long term, it is the children who suffer,’ she said.”

Parental abductions are cases of extreme cruelty, where one parent’s desire to harm the other parent falls one step short of actual homicide, leading the parent to commit a criminal act despite the obvious severe harm to the child.

“Rick Paris was taken from Argentina at age 6 in the 1950s and brought to the states for polio treatment by his American mother. She told him his father and grandfather were killed in a car accident. Mother and son moved several times and she often changed their names.

“At 16, Paris learned his father was still alive. He called his father who arranged a reunion in Argentina. The two stayed close until Paris' father died two years ago. Paris believes the psychological toll on the children in abduction cases is huge, regardless of what may appear to be happy reunions.

"’Parental kidnappings are definitely one of those gifts that keeps on giving,’ said Paris. ‘It deeply and fundamentally affects your ability to trust, your ability to create meaningful relationships. It sure does stay with you forever.’

In a case that recently made some stir in the media, David Goldman has been fighting to get his son back ever since his former wife took the child to Brazil and never returned. She later died, and the boy has been living with his stepfather in Brazil.

“U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, has been advocating for Goldman. He recently introduced a bill that would remove Brazil from a duty-free trade program until Goldman's son is returned to him in the U.S.

“Since beginning his advocacy, Smith said he has heard from people across the country entangled in international child custody disputes. Goldman's fight has inspired others and brought needed attention to the issue, he said.

"’By his heroic efforts to get his son back, he's not only brought hope and renewed activity for other families, he's lifted the veil off this egregious problem for the United States Congress,’ Smith said.

"’This is a serious issue globally that Congress, the White House and the State Department has to do much more than we've done to date.’"

One of the greatest barriers to reducing the incidence of parental abductions is the complacency of the general public and of elected leaders at all levels of government.

Most can’t be bothered….


Sources:
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=7832816

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/WorldNews/story?id=7833689&page=1


=========

Coming next: Parental abduction wisdom, pt 5:
=========

Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at www.parentalabductionlaw.blogspot.com

Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Blogolitical Sean at www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 3: The most dangerous kidnappers are parents

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--Parents who murder their own children shock us to the core, and cases of children abducted by strangers frighten us, move us to watch our children ever more closely. Children abducted by strangers are almost always murdered.

Both types of cases generate headlines, the shock and fright so central to who we are as human beings, the crimes so heinous, so alien to our souls, that they cut through all of the distractions, push even the news of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the inner pages or behind the weathercast.

Recently, in the Portland Metro area alone, a mother threw her two small children off the Sellwood Bridge, drowning her son, a father in Hillsboro murdered his two children with a handgun, then turned it on himself, and a couple chose to watch their child suffer and die rather than seek the medical attention that would have saved her life.

These are parents—criminal parents—but they are by far not the only ones who use their position and power as parents to commit crimes against their own children.

Children are far more likely to be kidnapped by one of their parents than by a stranger, but those cases rarely generate interest from either the media or law enforcement.

Among the approximately 200,000 reports of child abductions that take place across the US each year, only about 100 are by strangers, by persons unknown to (you) or (your) child. The rest are by parents and other family members, and they all damage the child(ren).

We are all busy people, and if the media and the police don’t recognize a problem, don’t see a crisis situation unfolding in a particular case of a missing child, then no one else will, either.

“Experts say there is a perception among the public and law enforcement that children kidnapped by their parents are not endangered. After all, figures from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention show that only 4 percent of children abducted by their parents are physically harmed.”

See ABC News: The most dangerous kidnappers: parents

http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=91365&page=1

Some parents commit murder; some kill their children through criminal neglect; far too many others take their (your) child and disappear.

Children are most at risk of a parental or family abduction within the first five years following a divorce or separation.

My four children disappeared from Oregon 14 years ago in a kidnapping noted in The Oregonian’s August 1996 editorial “Say Yes for Kids”, published seven months after my kids were abducted. It was the only media attention the case ever generated, and it prompted no response from the police or from anyone else.

My son Aaron died later, essentially from long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, alone in an empty house in Payson, Utah, where his mother had taken him and then left him behind.

The Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 1041 (Aaron’s Law) in 2005, shortly after I buried my son, his arms covered with the scars of self-inflicted knife wounds, cuts he made in the months following the abduction, when he was largely under the control of Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot carrying out an old-fashioned Mormon shunning, which was the primary motive for the kidnapping.

Aaron’s Law is a landmark bill, first-in-the-nation legislation, providing both victims and Oregon courts more tools to resolve and prevent child abduction, recognizing the emotional and psychological harm that child victims suffer when kidnapped by persons they love and trust.

One of Aaron’s Law’s most important clauses authorizes the court to order counseling sessions directed at educating the parents to the harm that their conduct is inflicting on their own children.

Most parents understand the difference between what is harmful and what is not and can be fairly objective about it, but every now and then something like the Sellwood case or the Worthington case or the Hillsboro case surfaces and we are reminded that this fundamental essence of our humanity cannot be completely taken for granted.

It is far more common for a parent to kidnap a child than to commit murder, but both actions have permanent consequences.

If your ex kidnaps your child, you can expect to be utterly on your own. No one will help you look for or recover your child.

Time will pass, you will hear (or it will be unsaid) “Geez, that was years ago. You ought to move on….”

Eventually, people will forget you ever had a child.

=========

Coming next: Child abduction wisdom, pt 4: Parental kidnappings increasing, up 70%
=========

Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean at www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com, and Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aaron and I, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco




We were so proud of each other....

As time went by, his mother changed her personality 180 degrees, became a TBM (True Believer Mormon)....

This was the cause of great tension in our household, as I wasn't buying it....

After we moved from California to the Portland area in 1988, not long after this photograph was taken, she started representing to her new Mormon friends (she wouldn't befriend anyone else) that she had been a TBM her entire life....

Telling that story of lifelong devotion to Mormonism became an obsession with her, and the obvious contradiction that I represented was a major cause of our divorce.

She sold that story to her current husband, husband number five, who apparently went for that TBM bullshit hook, line and sinker. The happy couple, Ben and Gina Foulk, their marriage founded on a bed of lies, live near Sacramento, California.

Gina and I negotiated a divorce in 1991. The Court ordered joint custody, joint decisionmaking and joint responsibility for our children's education and medical needs.

The order specified the days and times that our children would reside with each parent, and I saw my kids an average of 180 days a year for the five years, with daily phone contact. I wasn't going to be an every-other-weekend kind of dad.

Sometime in 1995, however, Gina and her Mormon friends and family began to scheme to kidnap our children and conceal them in Utah, to permanently sever all contact with me and with my family, and to isolate my kids and immerse them in an environment of Mormon absolutism.

It’s easy to find TBM allies in Utah, theocratic Utah, when you have a good TBM story to sell.

After the kidnapping, Aaron never smiled like this again. His heart was too full of pain, too full of tears. Betrayal will do that to you.

Children abducted by parents, by people they love, lose their ability to trust.

More on this later.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 2: The police won't help you

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--There are strict laws on the books regarding child abduction, Oregon statutes that might serve as a deterrent to child-snatching were it not for their lax enforcement.

The non-enforcement of these laws has several causes, but the most important among them, and the most disastrous to a family severed by a kidnapping, lies in the attitudes of policing agencies, the legal profession and the courts towards the issue of parental and family abduction itself.

These attitudes shape what is possible in the real world, when your child vanishes with a family member or with the connivance of a family member.

Local law enforcement generally will not take your claim that your child was kidnapped seriously, and despite the fact that the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, fathers are far less likely than mothers to see a priority status attached to a police report. They are going to assume that you, the father, did something wrong….

This fact alone shapes the attitudes of others (If the police aren’t concerned, why should I be?) and cuts your options down severely.

When your child disappears, the first thing you do is call 911, which brings a response of some sort from local law enforcement.

There is no statewide policy regarding how these cases are handled. It is all up to local law enforcement and the district attorney.

If you call the Oregon State Police or the FBI, they will refer you back to local law enforcement. Makes no difference if the child has been taken out of state. They will want to see a report from local law enforcement (which isn’t likely to be issued).

Under Oregon statute, in order to trigger the custodial interference laws that govern non-stranger kidnapping, one must demonstrate that the person intends to take the child “permanently, or for a protracted period of time.”

It may be clear to you that this is an actual kidnapping, clear to you that your ex will never willingly allow you to see your child again, but try telling that to the police.

They are going to want to wait, to see if either “permanently” or “protracted” takes place, even though there is no general agreement, no legal definition, on what these terms mean in terms of time, in terms of your life or your child’s life, which is slipping away….

Both terms can mean “forever.”

Parental and family abductions are the only crimes on the books with a built-in, open-ended waiting period.

If your ex stole your car, the police would be right on it, and they would haul in everyone who conspired to steal your car, and anyone who acted after the fact in a criminal capacity (more on this in a later post), and those people would be going to jail.

Despite the fact that my four children had been taken out of their schools and away from their home with me, in clear violation of a joint custody order, I was never interviewed by a detective.

In order to trigger an Amber Alert, you have to convince local law enforcement that a crime has taken place, and you need a physical description of the vehicle.

Shortly before she kidnapped my children, my former wife bought some kind of mini van, painted white. That’s all I knew, not enough information for an Amber Alert, and local law enforcement wasn’t going to look for my kids anyway.

At the time of the kidnapping, the Pacific Northwest was in the grip of a major storm, and many roads leading out of the Portland area were closed due to flooding, avalanches and downed power lines. I-84 eastbound and I-5 northbound were both cut by floods.

It seemed impossible that she could have driven anywhere, and it was unthinkable that she would have taken the kids out on the road in these hazardous conditions—but that’s exactly what she did.

Weeks passed by before I learned that my children’s abduction had been carefully planned and carried out by a group of Mormon church leaders living in three states, and I learned later still that they would stop at nothing to ensure that the abduction was permanent, and that their own roles in the crime would remain hidden (more on this in later posts).

If they had stolen any of my personal property, then the police would have gotten involved and my family would still be whole, my son alive today.

But all these criminals did was to cause my four children to disappear and conceal them in another state, and that leads to the issue of attitudes, for the laws are already on the books.


=========

Coming next: Child abduction wisdom, pt 3:

=========

Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean at www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com, and Aaron’s Law at www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 1: Searing, crushing heartbreak

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

If anyone was to ask me to describe what the loss of a child in a kidnapping is like, fourteen years gone by, this is how I would answer:

Searing, crushing heartbreak.

Same then, same now.

Heart full of pain, heart full of tears.

Same now, same then.

The photographic record of your child, the educational record, the record of your child’s life ends abruptly, in a single instant.

Everything that follows is a matter of age-progressed photographs and other guesswork and the certain knowledge that your heart will never recover from this.

It is the nature of kidnappings that the victims are taken by surprise. No one is ever prepared for this.

Shock. Disbelief. Searing, choking, crushing heartbreak. Anger. Panic. Desperation. Grief. Hopelessness. Depression. For some, suicide. You feel your pain, and you feel your child’s pain, and this pain never goes away.

With time, when you find yourself able to think about the future, you come to understand that every dream you ever had ended with the abduction, like an asteroid suddenly smashed the planet flat.

As a father, as a man, I am acutely aware that in child custody and family kidnapping cases, the legal system treats men differently from women.

This disparate treatment is certainly institutional, but it is grounded in the attitudes of society at large.

No reasonable person is going to expect a mother whose children disappeared to either start up a new family or to ever have a normal life again.

People have a very different expectation of fathers, however, and the legal system is made up of people. In this society, people expect fathers to move on, to start up another family somewhere, and another….


From the very beginning, people counseled me to be patient, assured me that someday my children would find me, had other ignorant things to say, but most often just shrugged, unable to relate to the situation….

In just a matter of months, some people were wondering why I didn’t just move on…I still hear that, way too often…”Geez, Sean. Fourteen years. You ought to move on….”

First point: Kidnappings are continuing crimes. Your child is kidnapped from the beginning to the end. There is no time off, no vacations, no relief whatsoever. A kidnapping is a permanent state of being. There is no moving on!

If your child is lost in the mountains, people can understand that as long as your child is lost in the mountains, your child is lost in the mountains. Some might even help you search….

That point has been lost on just about everyone I have met along the way.

This is a typical attitude toward cases of parental and family kidnapping, and it makes recovery that much more difficult. At minimum, the attitudes cost you time, cost your child’s time, and time is everything.

I envy people their normal lives.

I know that somewhere out there on the planet, three of my children are still alive.

For me, that is the most important fact in all the world.

=========

Coming next:

Child abduction wisdom, pt 2: The police won’t help you

Sunday, July 12, 2009

About Columbia Ultimate Kory Wright, kidnapping bastard!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

The last thing I ever expected to see displayed on my monitor was probably this:
a photograph of Kory Wright, one of the core group of kidnappers who caused my four children to disappear from their homes in Aloha and Hillsboro in Washington County in February, 1996.

My children had a home in Hillsboro with their mother and her third husband (who were divorcing), and a home a bike ride away in Aloha, with me and my mother, Olive Cruz.

I was my mother’s sole caregiver at the time. She was frail, elderly and had been housebound for years. We had a three-generation household. Our home was the most stable part of my children’s lives; especially with their mother in mid-divorce and on her way to yet another failed marriage (#4) in Utah and then another (#5) in California.

But that was another life, other lives, in a faraway place and time, when my children enjoyed the legal protection of an Order for Joint Custody, before Kory Wright and his associates schemed to take my children out of school and disappear….

Back to the present….

On a hunch, expand the search from Utah…Google…and there it was….the face of the Devil himself, aka Beelzebub, Old Stinky, Diabolus…Kory Wright.

http://www.columbiaultimate.com/about/management.aspx

A resident of Utah at the time my children disappeared, this kidnapping bastard Kory Wright had moved back to the original scene of the crime to raise his own children while mine were being moved from place to place across God-forsaken Utah.

I never thought he would ever want to leave Utah, much less move to the Kidnap Zone, where the crime began.

Some people think that once the statute of limitations runs and no criminal prosecution is possible, the crime is forgotten.

But kidnappings stretch out into infinity, take my word for it…now that my son Aaron is dead, the victim of long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, the victim of Kory Wright’s kidnapping plans, now that my mother is dead, having never seen or heard from her grandchildren again, Kory Wright’s zeal at carrying out an old-fashioned Mormon shunning….

Kory Wright arranged for the housing in Utah used to conceal my children, executing a plan that had been in the making for some months, acting in his capacity as a Mormon church official, and later committed perjury in the misdirection campaign the abduction team ran to shield themselves from criminal prosecution.

One crime begets another…and another…and another….

This plan also required the assistance of two of Kory Wright’s associates, whose part in the crime was to help get the kids out of school and on the road: David Holiday and Evelyn Taylor, both of Washington County, both officials of the Mormon Church, both acting in their official church capacities and in their roles in the LDS seminary program they were running at Hillsboro High School.

Three weeks after they disappeared, I still had no information about my children.

But Kory Wright, Evelyn Taylor, David Holliday and their Mormon associates knew exactly where they were.

Months went by. My children’s former schools in the Hillsboro School District received no requests for records from anywhere….

They were moving my children from place to place. This is the chaotic life that kidnapped children live.

Later, I received a copy of Kory Wright’s sworn affidavit, dated March 2, 1996, which states in part:

“I, Kory Wright declare under penalty of perjury of the laws of the State of Utah that the following statements are true and correct….

“In the short period they have lived here the children have increased their circle of friends, been involved in numerous activities and made a home for themselves. The schools they children attend are among the best in the state of Utah…. Clearly, the move here has been a tremendous benefit to both Gina and her children.

“If Shaun (sic) is truly seeking that which is best for his children, then let them live where they are the happiest. The economic boom in Utah would afford Shaun (sic) ample opportunity to provide for him as well as his support obligations. Since he currently has no employment restrictions keeping him in the Northwest, a relocation would not be difficult for him.”

That last paragraph has always had me wondering. I was fired from my job two weeks after my children disappeared, a week before Kory Wright wrote this statement.

….And at that moment, 800 miles away, in the mountains east of Ogden, Kory Wright contemplates my employment opportunities in Utah, extends an invitation via the Clark County Courthouse….

My employer was very explicit about the reason for terminating me: I didn’t have my mind on my job.

No doubt about that point; no argument at all. My mind was on nothing but my missing children and how to care for my mother. My job was definitely not in the top two.

Meanwhile, all of my children’s mail was secretly being forwarded to Evelyn Taylor in Washington County, mere blocks away from the abduction site, instead of wherever they were holding my children.

They tried to think of everything. Months of planning, secret meetings, budgeting….

Here’s what Oregon statute has to say about it, in the language of criminal law:

163.245 Custodial interference in the second degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the second degree if, knowing or having reason to know that the person has no legal right to do so, the person takes, entices or keeps another person from the other person’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order with intent to hold the other person permanently or for a protracted period.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the second degree is a Class C felony.

163.257 Custodial interference in the first degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the first degree if the person violates ORS 163.245 and:
(a) Causes the person taken, enticed or kept from the lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order to be removed from the state; or
(b) Exposes that person to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the first degree is a Class B felony.

It boils down to this:

A. Take, entice or keep a child in violation of a valid joint custody order: Class “C” felony.
B. Take the child out of the state of Oregon OR expose that child to a substantial risk of illness of physical injury: Class “B” felony.

Guilty on both counts, guilty as Sin itself, each of them.

To this day, I have no information as to how long Kory Wright and his associates kept my children out of school.

I do know that my children never recovered academically from the abduction, and I learned in 2007 that both of my sons had dropped out of high school five years after arriving in Utah, both with academic grade point averages that had fallen to 0.0. Zero Point Zero!

Kory Wright identifies himself in the affidavit as functioning in the capacity of a counselor or mediator, using both words to suggest to the Court some form of professional capacity or relationship.

But according to the Columbia Ultimate website, the company’s mainstay is “collecting money.”

http://www.columbiaultimate.com/about/press/112106.aspx
More on this later.

Count on it.

=================

Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean: www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

And Aaron’s Law: www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Dedicated to ending child abduction and finding justice for the abduction of the Cruz children.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Searching for Cesar Chavez in Portland, pt 4: City Council: the "Yes" panels

By Sean Cruz

There was little sign of Cesar Chavez in the Council chambers, even when the “Yes” panels were speaking. None had thought to bring a photograph to the hearing….

No one among those in the first panel up in support of renaming 39th Avenue identified himself/herself as a member of the mostly-secret Chavez Boulevard Committee, although until recently, Portland School Board member Martin Gonzalez’ picture was prominently displayed on the Committee’s website, indicating actual membership….

Former Mayor Tom Potter led off for the Yesses…God bless him, God love him, there is no doubt as to Tom Potter’s sincere wish to rename a Portland street for Cesar Chavez….

The fatal flaw from the beginning was the bad advice he received, which was maximized by way too much stubbornness into this street renaming obsession….

I recognize the former mayor’s sincere wish; my sincere wish is that rather than locking in on renaming a street, he had chosen instead to pour his energy into educating and mobilizing Portland to make a difference, somehow and somewhere, in the lives of actual farmworkers….

Having done that first, a fitting tribute to Cesar Chavez would likely have emerged organically and from the community itself….

…and I wish Tom would stop referring to Cesar Chavez solely as a “Latino” or “American”…neither label was what got Chavez arrested or prompted his activism…it was his Mexican face, and his life as a Mexican-American migrant farmworker, let’s be clear about that….

The former mayor’s closing restated his erroneous assumption that there is “a” community, and that we must all be alike….

“…ask you to give something back to a community, a community that has given us an American hero, a civil rights leader, a labor leader, an American of humble origins. Give us all a street named Cesar E Chavez Boulevard. Thank you.”

Zero points, Tom. We could have gotten something done that made a difference. You should have asked the question: “How are the children? How are the farmworkers’ children?”

Next up was Portland School Board Member Martin Gonzalez, stating that he was not a Boulevard Committee member, but not explaining why his photo was on their website for much of the past two years….

Mr. Gonzalez explained that a Latino presence in what is now the US goes back to Spanish settlement in the 16th Century….

Most Americans believe that history began on these continents with the arrival of the Europeans early in the 16th Century….

The spread of the Spanish language into North America certainly is the result of Spanish settlement, but in Mexico alone more than fifty indigenous languages are still in common use today…and if Oregon had become a state only ten years sooner, it’s southern border would have been with the Republic of Mexico and its northernmost state, Alta California….

The Portland School Board member earned an “F” for scholarship, and then quoted a passage from Martin Luther King, Jr’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail instead of quoting any words from Cesar Chavez himself….

Mr. Gonzalez did not identify himself as a Mexican American, but a Latino…maybe you have to do that to get elected in this town, but the point is that this first panel did not include a single Mexican American…you’d think you would want to have one or two of those, if you are going to honor a Mexican American with the stature of Cesar Chavez….

Third up was Portland Development Commissioner Berta Ferran, probably a principle source of the bad advice the former mayor has been getting, speaking as a private citizen, as a Cuban refugee…now it starts to get complicated….

Ms Ferran: “Cesar Chavez is not just a Latino leader, he is an American hero.”

As Treasurer and a Board member of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Ms Ferran had to parse her words carefully….

http://www.hmccoregon.com/about/board/

Although Cesar Chavez has been often described as a Hispanic or Hispanic American, the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and its 618 member businesses have stayed completely away from the street renaming debate, indicating that the Chavez Boulevard Committee is on its own, as far as Hispanics are concerned, and that none of its member businesses desire to be located on a street named Chavez….

http://www.hmccoregon.com/membership/list.php

This would have been an important clarifying question to raise, may have settled for some the confusion between Latino and Hispanic communities….

Ms Ferran described Cesar Chavez: “He is a man who is a labor leader who fought for better wages and better conditions for the workers of America,” indicating that she really does not know too much specifically about Chavez, farm workers or the history of labor in America….

The first “Yes” panel wrapped up with Jeanna Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, who described BRO as “champions of equality and justice.”

Ms Frazzini stated: “We must face those in our community who marginalize immigrants, deprive them of due process and deny them equal opportunity.”

Note that Ms Frazzini and BRO have not participated in any actual campaign to address the unjust living and working conditions of Oregon farmworkers, and have not spoken in defense of farmworkers at any point in the firestorm of invective targeting mostly Mexican immigrants….

Each of these speakers apparently feels that he or she understands the plight of Oregon farmworkers and the obstacles to achieving justice well enough that they can smugly roll the dice regarding farmworkers’ futures with renaming a street….

The fact is that farmworkers will need support from the very same people that this street renaming effort is alienating.

Since none of the Chavez Boulevard Committee or their supporters are actively working to achieve justice for farmworkers, their rhetoric is a little stale and even condescending, but the real issue is how much damage they are willing to cause efforts to improve the living and working conditions of farmworkers in Oregon.

I’m still searching…more comments on the "Yes" panels coming soon....


Link to the City Council hearing video archive:
http://www.portlandonline.com/index.cfm?c=49508


Sean Cruz writes BlogoliticalSean at http://www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Searching for Cesar Chavez in Portland, pt 3, "Observations and reflections on the City Council hearing"

By Sean Cruz

Prior to hearing the invited and public testimony on the proposed ordnance renaming 39th Avenue, the Council heard comments from City staff members and various parties with their fingerprints on the “process”, and voted on accepting the report of the Planning Commission (which did no actual planning and no research on its own).

There was a consistent thread through these “process” comments that suggested the inevitability of renaming a street—just about any street—was a foregone conclusion…it was a matter of honing down three streets chosen at random to determine the actual “winner”.

Highlights from this portion of the agenda included:

A panel of mutually-congratulatory white folks describing their contributions to the “process” of selecting a street to sacrifice on the Altar of Empty Gestures….

Among them a project manager, blissfully unaware of how badly managed this project has been, enthusiastically offered up a slide show of empty patches of asphalt along 39th Avenue…you had to be there….

A consultant hired to mediate who appears to have spent far more time on assembling her self-congratulatory remarks than on any actual mediation….

A Historian Panel that lacked a single real historian, focused on the history of Portland street naming and renaming, completely overlooked the history of the man being “honored”….

A Planning Commission that did no actual planning throughout the entire process, presented a report to City Council that summed Cesar Chavez up in a single word: “Latino.”

Note to the Planning Commission: “Latino” refers to people whose Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking ancestors began arriving in the Americas in the 16th century, murdering and enslaving its inhabitants throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and across two continents, including the area that is now known as the American Southwest. It is not a pretty story…you should try reading a book now and then….

2nd Note to the Planning Commission: There is a presumption that renaming 39th Avenue will increase pedestrian and vehicular traffic along the street, but having conducted no traffic impact study (see project manager comment above), no one in the neighborhoods knows what to expect or how issues of safety, noise and air quality will be mitigated….

The months-long work of City staff, conducted completely within a Portland bubble, the clueless project manager, the Historian Panel Without Historians, the mediator who did not mediate and the Planning Commission that did not plan, produced two documents for the Council’s consideration, but not a single photograph of Cesar Chavez or farmworkers was in evidence…even the Committee Once Bent on Renaming Interstate failed to bring a photograph of Cesar Chavez to the hearing….

What could possibly be wrong with a process and an outcome like this?

The City’s process has stirred up a storm of anger directed at immigrants and farmworkers in general, and against Mexican and Mexican American people in particular, and yet the Office of Human Relations and the Human Rights Commission has let it all flow unchallenged and unanswered….

For Oregon farmworkers, perhaps the most important City staff failure was the absence of any input or activity from the Office of Human Relations or the Human Rights Commission to counter the racist rhetoric, and the fact that this Portland obsession drained the life out of any hope for meaningful reforms that would improve their living and working conditions within the next two years.

While the Director of the Office of Human Relations, Maria Lisa Johnson, was seen skulking in the Council Chamber recesses and in and out of various Commissioners’ offices prior to and during the hearing, she had nothing to say about the bigoted and racist comments the street-renaming obsession has generated.

The fact that she has been in the bag for renaming a street, beginning with Interstate Avenue, from the beginning, and was as quick as anyone else to accuse opponents of renaming Interstate as bigots, prior to her appointment to “lead” the City’s Office of Human Relations, points directly to the problem with this office.

If nothing else, you have to credit the City’s street-renaming “process” with being consistent: consistently ad hoc, consistently contrived, consistently faulty and consistently driven by City Hall insiders, insiders who are completely consistent in their desires to remain anonymous, at least until the street-renaming parade takes place along 39th Avenue….

More comments on the Council hearing coming soon, in Searching for Cesar Chavez in Portland, pt 4….


Sean Cruz writes BlogoliticalSean at http://www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching for Cesar Chavez in Portland, pt 2

Searching for Cesar Chavez in Portland, Oregon, pt 2

By Sean Cruz

I was invited to speak before the Portland City Council last night, who were conducting their own search for Cesar Chavez….

I want to thank Mayor Adams and the Council for providing the opportunity, very sincerely.

I provided written testimony to the Council, but decided to speak without referring to notes.

Unfortunately, I ran out of speaking time before the call to action part….

The sad fact of the evening was that the discussion was so frozen into the question of renaming a street, that no one would have heard the call, not even in the People’s Republic of Multnomah.

Supporters of renaming a street dream of cruising up and down 39th Avenue….

It will make them feel good about themselves, feel like they are actually doing something to benefit farmworkers they will never meet and causes they will never join….

…cruise to the North, cruise to the South…

…convenient shopping either way…

--------------


Searching for Cesar, pt 3 “Reflections on the City Council hearing” coming soon

The search continues….


Testimony for Portland City Council
June 23, 2009

My name is Sean Cruz; I am a resident of NE Portland.

Like Cesar Chavez, I am the son and grandson of Mexican farm workers; like Cesar Chavez, I am a Mexican American, a US citizen with Mexican roots; like Cesar Chavez, I am a Chicano. I found my own Chicano identity through Cesar Chavez, through the National Chicano Movement in California in the 1960’s.

Throughout this long Portland argument, Cesar Chavez has been variously described as a "Latino", as a "Hispanic", as a "not Hispanic, but an American", as an "American" and as a "Latino American", but never as a Mexican American or a Chicano.

None of these terms are synonyms, yet in Portland they are used interchangeably to describe very different—even profoundly different—cultures. Where is the honor in that?

In 1954, in Brown vs Board of Education, the school desegregation case, African Americans gained protection under the 14th Amendment.

Mexican Americans did not gain the same protection until 1970, in Cisneros vs Corpus Christi School District, where Mexican Americans were finally recognized in US courts as a unique, distinct ethnicity, as a People.

Is it any wonder that our children, our families suffer the highest high school dropout rates?

Portland, overwhelmingly white, is just about 40 years behind.... Mexicans, Mexican Americans have not yet gained recognition here in Portland as a People.

For all of the talk in respect to diversity, throughout the many pages of the documents before you in items 860-1 and 860-2 there is but a single reference to Cesar Chavez’ race, culture and ethnicity, and that is the word “Latino.” Where is the honor in that?

I recognize that two years ago, Mayor Potter and the Council very sincerely wanted to express respect for the life and achievements of Cesar Chavez in a significant, permanent public way, but frankly the Council was in receipt of some very bad advice, which brings us to where we are this evening.

With all due respect, where is the honor in accepting these document from five well-meaning-but-poorly-informed white people who cannot tell us apart?

I hope that you, Mayor Adams and members of the Council, will use this time to obtain a far better understanding of precisely who you are talking about when the subject is “Cesar Chavez” or “farmworkers” or “Cesar Chavez’ people” and why it is far too early to celebrate, not while farmworkers across the entire USA continue to suffer unjust and even inhumane living and working conditions.

This street-renaming obsession, focused entirely within the City of Portland, where there is little actual farm work, has cost farmworker advocates working to remove the injustices written into Oregon state law the entire past two years.

Had this street-renaming effort been focused on making a difference in real lives, we might have accomplished something real and we might have had something real to celebrate tonight….

The only wage earners in Oregon who have no right to overtime pay for working beyond 40 hours a week are our farmworkers, our mostly-Mexican farmworkers.

Oregon’s mostly-Mexican farmworkers won the right to meal and rest breaks during the workday only five years ago, the only population in the state denied that fundamental right.

Farm labor in the USA is not a “Latino” experience, or a “Hispanic” experience and not necessarily an “immigrant” experience.

Historically and to the present day, farm labor is by a wide margin a Mexican experience, a Mexican-American experience, and in California, where Cesar Chavez family and my family worked the fields, a Chicano experience, and it is 100% an experience of deep, abject poverty and injustice, conditions that continue to exist today.

“Hispanic” and “Latino” refer to cultures that originated in Europe and mixed here one way or another, beginning in the 16th century.

Before there was an Oregon, before there was a USA, before there was a Mexico, before there were continents named after a Portuguese sailor, our ancestors were here and we were a People. We were many Peoples.

Chicanos, like Cesar Chavez, identify with our aboriginal roots rather than the European. Our ancestors did not cross the Atlantic ocean to come to America.

All Chicanos are Mexican Americans, but not all Mexican Americans are Chicanos. You cannot tell us apart by looking at us.

These facts explain in part why the Portland Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has been completely silent on the street-renaming issue over the entire past two years. There are no Chicanos over there, and no farmworkers either.

The problems

The first problem, going back to the beginning of this mess, was the failure to recognize that there is no monolithic Hispanic or Latino community.

Racially and ethnically, culturally and by nationality, we are the most diverse people on earth, and we are each equally proud of who we are.

The second major problem is that this discussion ended as soon as it began, focused from the start on street-renaming as the only permissible way to honor Hispanic Latino American Cesar Chavez in the City of Portland, with every other idea frozen out.

The third problem was the failure to educate the public as to the life and achievements of Cesar Chavez, and as to the living and working conditions of farmworkers both then and now, which is related to the fourth problem.

The fourth problem (and I’m not referring to the specifics of the City’s legion of process problems) was the fact that the City’s process opened the door to the anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant insults and bigotry, and then stood aside and let the inflammatory rhetoric flow.

The City’s own Office of Human Relations and Human Rights Commission simply vanished. Their work appears to be built around collecting their paychecks.

The fifth problem is that if the same amount of energy had been expended on educating the public to the living and working conditions of Cesar Chavez’s people in the present day we might have had an opportunity to make meaningful change in the 2009 legislative session.

The Oregon legislature is about to end its 2009 session without addressing the issue, which means that Oregon farmworkers cannot possibly win the right to overtime pay for overtime work until the 2011 session.

That is a lot of hours of unpaid overtime, but here’s a nice stretch of asphalt, and a whole big pile of animosity to help you forget your troubles….

The sixth problem (and this is not near the end of the long list of problems) now facing Oregon farmworker advocates is how to develop forward momentum in the face of an almost totally white legislature that lacks any champions for farmworkers.

It was Cesar’s Mexican face that got him arrested for refusing to sit in the balcony, in the Mexican section of a movie theater, this U.S. Navy veteran.

In a town and in an era where signs saying “No Mexicans allowed” were commonplace, where the US farm labor force was mostly made up of Mexican men, women and children, whole families, grandparents, even pregnant women, enduring grinding poverty and hard labor, Cesar Chavez, Mexican American Chicano Cesar Chavez, short hoe in hand, began to organize the farmworkers, in fields like these….

Cesar Chavez’s struggle and his campaigns were defined by his life experience as a brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking, Mexican-American migrant farmworker, a person who far too many Americans would categorize even today as a wetback, and they do….

We’ve all seen and heard the bigoted comments that this street-renaming fiasco has generated.

The only persons that those insults are directed towards are Mexican people, Mexican-American people, like Cesar Chavez, like me. Papers or no papers, people can be very specific about who they do not like.

One would think that the City would have charged its own Office of Human Relations or its Human Rights Commission to mediate the conflict, to follow its own mission statement, to work to reduce the expression of bigotry and anti-Mexican discrimination that the City’s own highly-dysfunctional and mostly ad hoc street-renaming process set in motion, but that did not happen.

The reason that did not happen is because the Director of the Office of Human Relations has been in the bag for renaming a street from the very beginning.

Our Mexican American experience is unique to us, and Cesar Chavez brought that experience out of the shadows, brought us out of the shadows, Mexican people, Mexican Americans, Chicanos.

There is no honor in being told “you people all look alike.”

Oregon’s mostly-Mexican farmworkers remain in the shadows.

Oregon’s mostly-Mexican farmworkers remain the state’s only population that is prohibited by law from the right to overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week.

As we meet today, the New York State Senate is preparing to vote on a bill that would remove from state statute the race-based exclusionary laws that deny farmworkers the right to a day off from work, that deny farmworkers and no other workers the right to overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week.

The state of New York is home to a large duck liver pate industry, where farm workers are required to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, force-feeding ducks.

Worse, a characteristic of the duck liver industry is that each worker is assigned the same several hundred ducks to force-feed three times a day each for 22 consecutive days. They cannot have another worker substitute so someone can get a day off “because it upsets the ducks.”

The Call to Action

I ask you today to choose to make more than a symbolic gesture, to make instead a real difference in the lives of farmworkers, sending a message of support to the farm workers of New York state.

I ask the Portland City Council to honor the courage of Cesar Chavez by calling for a City-wide boycott of duck liver products until the laws excluding farmworkers from the rights and protections that all other workers enjoy are removed from statute.

I ask the Portland City Council to honor the sacrifice of Cesar Chavez by calling on the Oregon Legislature to remove the provisions in Oregon statute that exclude farmworkers from the right to overtime pay for overtime work.
Thank you.

Sean Cruz
June 23, 2009
Testimony for Portland City Council