From Day One of the Obama Administration’s efforts to expand family detention, children have been the hardest hit. In Artesia, Berks, Dilley, and Karnes, these vulnerable asylum seekers are the ones who suffer the most when fleeing danger and coming to the U.S. seeking lawful protection for their safety. The children are traumatized instead of being sheltered. They are incarcerated by the hundreds as our government works tirelessly to fast-track their deportation and volunteer attorneys work just as tirelessly to prevent those removals.
This week we found out the Karnes facility has received an initial license from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) as a childcare facility. This effort is entirely at the behest of the federal government and the private prison companies, who desperately want to keep their cash cow open despite Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling in the Flores case. Licensing these “baby jails” as childcare facilities is just the latest in a string of outrageous and shameful efforts to keep the deportation machine running. Thankfully a Texas judge has temporarily halted the licensing of the Dilley facility as a child care center. But that battle still wages.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I’ll make sure to bring a card and flowers home to my wife and mother to thank them for being the amazing mothers that they are. But I can’t help but think of the children. I think of the young girl who drew me a picture of a house with a chimney below a shining sun at Artesia when I worked there in an attempt to spare her family from deportation, and of the babies and toddlers who are learning to walk and talk in detention. I think of the mothers who breastfeed during immigration court proceedings and the fact that private prisons are stocked with fleece footy pajamas size newborn and up. I think of the mothers and children in Artesia who would rather sleep in the detention center’s bathroom where the vapors of the hot water kept them warm. Every day, but particularly on Mother’s Day, I think of the mothers and children and how wrong it is that they continue to be held in detention in our country.
We’re not the only ones to celebrate Mother’s Day. The three countries making up the Northern Triangle where so many of these mothers and children are fleeing from also set aside a day to recognize mothers – May 8 in Honduras and May 10 in El Salvador and Guatemala. It’s clear the dangers they face in their home country have forced these mothers to flee with their most precious cargo, their children. Why is our government continuing to do everything it can to incarcerate them? Why aren’t we living up to the ideals and values that made America the country it is today? Why are we failing these mothers? I ask President Obama to kindly pick up the microphone you dropped with so much braggadocio the other night, because your work is not done. You need to stop and correct these wrongs before you drop your microphone and declare yourself “out.” This Mother’s Day, I recognize these mothers’ sacrifices and pray no mother has to endure detention next Mother’s Day.
Written by Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President
How can you help?
If you are an AILA member, law student, paralegal, or translator, who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project page – we could really use your help.
If you would like to donate funds please see the American Immigration Council’s page dedicated to the fundraising effort.
To watch videos of the volunteers sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.