Phoenix, Arizona, May 25, 2010
I write on behalf of Latina immigrant mothers in Arizona, to share their experiences under the current anti-immigrant onslaught. I am a sociologist who has conducted research in the Phoenix area for over a decade, and therefore have followed events that affect immigrant families for a while. I have interviewed hundreds of immigrants and have conversed with many more over the years, and I can see that the particular climate of anti-immigrant sentiment we see today is exceptional. On May 2, the weekend before Mother’s Day, a group of Latina immigrant mothers met for an impromptu rally to express their position, and I took the opportunity to discuss with them how they feel, their views, and their fears.
As mothers, the current hostility has particular significance for them. Mothers are often in charge of caring for their children and other family members, and this climate threatens the very survival of these families as anyone can be forcibly separated from loved ones at any time. I write the following text expressing the women’s views, as most cannot come forward to do so themselves publically. I have culled their accounts into a single voice, a voice that is often hidden or silenced.
The hostility toward immigrant families has been increasing steadily in Arizona over the past several years and became most evident on April 23rd when Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. Now, more than ever, deportation is a real threat. Documented and undocumented immigrants, alike, often members of the same families, live in fear because one a relative may be detained at any moment. Any mother will tell you that their biggest fear is to be separated from their children. This has become a constant risk for us.
Plagued by fear of being detained and deported, of being forcefully separated from our children with little notice, we were moved to do something about it. Today, a group of us got together for an impromptu rally at a street corner in Phoenix to make public our request that the immigration raids stop. We were all women; all dressed in white, and holding white balloons to call attention to our plea. Our request is simple: we want a moratorium on the raids that are separating our families. Some of us were fearful to be standing there at the corner, performing this public act. We were risking a lot – everything, perhaps. But as one of the mothers said, it’s about the only thing we can do to protect our children and we’re doing it for them.
Today we reach out to you because we know you can relate to us. We know that you understand that, as mothers, we want the best for our children, to protect them against any harm, and to make sure that they feel secure. But all of this is out of reach for us in the current climate in Arizona. If HB 1070 goes into effect in 90 days, if nothing is done to prevent its implementation, it will undermine our ability to be good mothers. This is very clear to us, and sadly, it is also becoming clear to our children. Please help us stop this injustice.
Do you remember the day you dropped off your child at day care or school for the first time? Do you recall the pain that you felt when your child cried out of fear and sadness because you were leaving? This exact feeling is multiplied thousands of times for us on a daily basis when we think about the many mothers who have already been detained while at work, on their way home from grocery shopping, and outside of schools when dropping off their children. We carry this same anxiety knowing that any one of us may be next. This is simply torment for mothers. It is deeply painful for the children too. Every time we leave each others’ side, it is possible that we may not see each other again.
As you might imagine, children are profoundly affected. At the rally today, mothers shared stories about their children’s behavior in recent months as anti-immigrant sentiments and immigration raids have escalated in our state. Children cry and beg not to be sent or left at school because they do not want to be apart from their mothers. One little boy born in Phoenix six years ago, who was holding a big white balloon at the rally, has started having nightmares and wakes up screaming in the middle of the night begging the monster in his dreams not to take his mom from him. Some mothers have had to stop riding in the same car with their husbands to avoid the dreadful possibility of both parents being detained and deported. They drive less, and when they do, they make sure their cars won’t call the attention of the authorities to avoid being stopped. All mothers worry day and night that this will happen, as a mere traffic stop can result in separation from their children. Who will care for children when their mother is detained and what will happen to them in the hands of strangers?
We feel helpless and distressed; there is so little we can do to alleviate our children’s worries. Of all the brutality that anti-immigrant laws can unleash, family separation is particularly cruel, the mothers concur. A deportation can leave a child (US-born or immigrant) without a parent (or parents) at any moment, any day. As fellow mothers, we come to you for support. Thank you for reading this letter and for considering adding your voice to end this injustice.