This summer, two of our Global Justice Interns are working with RAICES. In the past few weeks, RAICES has been in the national spotlight for the work they have been doing to help reunite separated families. Thanks to a viral Facebook fundraiser, they have raised more than $20 million dollars to continue fighting for immigration justice. We reached out to our interns to see how they are feeling about working with such an important organization at such a critical time. Here is what they had to say:
“The opportunity to work for RAICES when they are essentially on the front line of many immigration issues has been an extremely humbling experience. On a daily basis we interact with moms fighting for their children’s right to a better future. I feel blessed to be able to help these families in any way possible. The work we do is hard, but it is essential. Immigrant rights are human rights and we must always fight for humanity. La lucha siegue!” – Diana
“As someone who is already passionate about immigration rights and the immigration movement; I was blown away when I arrived at RAICES. The attorneys, legal assistants, and others are equally as passionate. They commit to long hours, and work through nights if something needs to get done. It’s amazing to see a group of people equally committed to making a difference. It just fueled me to run with what I love – the immigration movement. When I arrived at Karnes Detention Center, I was nervous. However, I was greeted by women and children who are grateful for our work. It’s difficult to listen to their stories, however these women symbolize the every parent. Every parent would do anything to give their child love, security, and a future. It’s incredible to see these women and their resilience. The children are also so kind and joyful, despite it feeling like the world is against them. Like Diana said, the work we do is hard, but it needs to be done. Immigration is about family and it always will be, and I am grateful to be in the front lines of this movement. Let’s fight the good fight!” – Jamie
Diana (center) poses with two other RAICES interns at the San Antonio Families Belong Together Rally on June 30.
The following post was written by Melanie Poeling, a participant in UUCSJ’s RAICES volunteer program.
Imagine that you are a mother with small children and you have traveled over a thousand miles from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador because of extreme violence against you and your family, only to be detained after requesting asylum at the U.S. Port-of-entry. You imagine being safe and free in the U.S.; instead you are imprisoned indefinitely in a family detention center with your children anywhere from weeks to almost a year. When you finally get out, you are released at a bus station in a strange city in the middle of the night with little money, no clothes, and not even a change of diapers for your baby. This is the reality for many families from Central America fleeing violence.
Volunteering through the UU College of Social Justice and RAICES allowed me to see firsthand the mental, physical, and emotional toll that mandatory detention has on refugee families. I saw children famished due to inadequate food in the centers, not eating and losing weight. I saw mothers and children who were very ill but feared seeking help because the medical unit at the Karnes detention center was being used for solitary confinement and punishment for mothers that protested.
The stories I heard from refugee mothers were heartbreaking, but their strength, love, and determination outweighed the pain. We heard stories of women witnessing their children being murdered in front of them; stories of years of domestic violence; stories of sex trafficking and the kidnapping of teenage girls; stories about extortion and extreme gang violence. And then, once in the U.S., indeterminate detention in family detention centers. These families are refugees. How can we not see this as a humanitarian crisis?
Witnessing all of this firsthand deeply impacted me as a Unitarian Universalist and as a mother. As a UU, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. In the detention centers, women and children are stripped of all dignity and treated as worthless. Profits are valued over people. As a mother, I am deeply disturbed that as a nation, we are detaining infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers with their mothers in detention centers that are no better than a prison.
I am so glad that through our work with the UU College of Social Justice and RAICES we were able to provide information, assist with court preparations, provide temporary housing and transportation, and support these mothers in their fight for the safety and well-being of their families.
As a UU, I am called to action to end the detention of mothers and children. This is a humanitarian crisis and family detention centers are not the answer. They should be immediately shut down.