Diminish the Pain of Unjust Detention
Strengthen bonds of love
by Elissa McDavid
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying –
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
“Home,” references in particular the on-going European refugee crisis, but also the larger forces of migration, across the globe and across borders.
Shire points to the humanness of migration. In the United States, our media, our politics, and our society often forgets this. In particular, we forget the mothers, fathers, children, and families who have no option, but to leave home.
In the last few years there has also been an increase in the number of mothers (and children) seeking refuge in the US from the violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as other individuals fleeing violence and/or the inability to find work in their home country. But most simply, they are seeking the chance to make their families’ life better. The US government responded to this increase by expanding the detention of mothers by more than 4,000 percent (source: http://www.immigrantjustice.org/stop-detaining-families). Those who are imprisoned are stuck in a legal limbo for months or even years before their case can be heard. They often do not receive healthcare access they need and are separated from their families. They are one of the most ‘invisible,’ populations in the United States, in terms of access to care, support and resources.
Sometimes this huge injustice feels immovable and impossible. But as Unitarian Universalists, our faith is about realizing that this is huge, acting upon that ‘hugeness,’ and responding with compassion. Recognizing this deep injustice, and helping by being the best allies we can be, that is what I believe makes me Unitarian Universalist. We ‘show up.’
And Shire’s poem reminds us that sometimes prisons are safer than what these mothers fled:
Or the strip searches where your
Body is left aching
Or a prison.
Because prison is safer than a city of fire.*
This Mother’s Day, this is one thing we can do, to write a card or two, for the mothers in the US who are often not considered as mothers. It’s one thing we can do to show support and to begin to understand Shire’s poem, for “no one leaves home unless home is a mouth of a shark.”
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO – RIGHT NOW:
Imprisoned mamas deserve love, not incarceration. On Mamas Day, send mamas your thanks and the loving embrace of family and loved-ones to warm-up a cold detention center.
Thousands of immigrant mamas will be detained this Mamas Day. They are among the 34,000 immigrants that Congress requires to be locked up. You read that right. It’s called the “detention bed quota” and it’s part of the larger struggle to get more immigrant mamas and families out of prison.1
Under the law, many of the mamas have a right to be free and live in the United States, but they will often be imprisoned for months, or even years.2
As one mama in detention explained, “Only God has given me the strength to bear all of this time here.” For her and many other mamas, until they’re forced out or set free, prison is where they will be, and all they’ll get for Mamas Day. That is, unless we step up.
CultureStrike has designed beautiful cards to go out to mothers everywhere. And we’re collaborating with Presente.org, NWDC Resistance, and Strong Families to print these cards out and deliver them to mothers in detention across the country. Since it takes a lot of time to navigate through the detention centers’ rules, please complete your card ASAP so we can deliver it to the mamas.
These cards can be a message of hope to mamas and might just be the difference that gives them the strength to fight through detention and win their freedom in immigration court.3
Cards will be delivered to detention centers in Washington and Pennsylvania, and maybe in more states depending on the response. Our goal is to send much needed love and hope to mamas who have fled desperate situations and are fearful of having to return to them.4
Your cards will also send a message to our government: This is not the way our country should be treating mamas and families who have come here in search of refuge and a better life. Help send that message now.
Thank you for all you do and ¡adelante!
Elissa McDavid is currently studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico, and will be a senior at Hendrix College in the fall. She is studying anthropology and biology and this summer she will be a Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice intern, at Rural Migrant Ministries in New York, working with migrant farm workers and their families.
1. “Detention Quotas.” Detention Watch Network
2.“Judge’s ruling may free immigrant mothers and children from detention.” Los Angeles Times. February 24, 2016.
3. “Why did this undocumented mom spend more than four years in detention?” Fusion. May 8, 2015.
4. “Women on the run: First hand accounts of refugees fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. October 29, 2015.
*Listen to Warson Shire’s poem – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6t78c_5aR4, or read the full text – http://seekershub.org/blog/2015/09/home-warsan-shire/