This week has been very difficult for the immigrant community. I’m not even really sure how to start writing about this traumatic event that happened at the end of last summer. But I will attempt to start by explaining the photo above.
The photo above may seem like a regular photo that people take with their siblings when helping them take their first steps, but the more you look at it, you might start to notice things that are not so normal. Let’s start with the setting in the photo. You can infer that there are two beds in this room; but what you may not know is that this is in a hotel room. In Brownsville. In Texas. Close to the border.
Next, you notice that my baby sister, Charito, is wearing an oversized Puerto Vallarta t-shirt. You may also notice my dad is on his phone in the background and you might be wondering why the heck he doesn’t get this small child some proper clothes. What you don't know is that my family had been cooped up in that hotel room for weeks while my mom was kept in an ICE detention center. For those who know children, know that kids go through two, three, or maybe more outfits per day because they are so messy. At this point, we had run out of baby clothes so we borrowed one of my dad’s t-shirts.
Now you might be thinking, lazy bastards, why don’t you just do your laundry and take proper care of your child?! Well, you see, we had just seen my mom in the detention center earlier so we were tired at that point. Every day was hard there. We would sit in a waiting room for hours on end, only to see my mom for the quickest 15 minutes ever. The other 15 minutes while my other siblings would visit her felt eternal. Why didn’t my 15 minutes last that long?
A security guard would come get us in groups of 3, I would take Charito and Viry with me, sometimes Geli. Then suddenly we were face to face with the woman that nurtured us growing up, separated by glass, and could only communicate by a phone that smelled weird. Like criminals do in movies. The glamorous woman that I knew was not there, it seemed like she was replaced with someone who hadn’t been able to wear makeup or do her hair while in that facility; not that it matters to me, but it’s a part of who she is. And it was still the same woman, because she was showing strength as if nothing could break her. The basic essence of my mom.
I placed the phone in Charito’s ear and she hugged it closely as she heard my mom’s voice. Then another time we were able to have a contact visit and spend time in my mom’s arms, but my dad wasn’t allowed to go near her. As harsh as this all sounds, at least for me, going to see my mom at the detention center was the highlight of the day. Every day, my family would go to the same gas station for food because it was cheap and spend their days locked up in that hotel with nothing to do but take the kids out to play in the park or go to the store.
My mom was deported in late August and most of my family moved back to Mexico. Still, I am grateful that my siblings were able to stay with my dad during my mom’s detention. If I worried for my mom’s safety, a grown woman, in a place like that, I would have lost my mind knowing my little siblings were being treated in the same manner. It simply does not make sense in my mind how some people think it is okay. And if you do, I have no respect for you, no matter who you are. I not only wish for families to stop being separated from detention centers, but to stop being separated and detained in general. Fuck ICE. Fuck detention centers. And fuck anyone who condones them.