Editor’s Note: More than 1,200 women from 70 organizations are fasting in 35 states for immigration reform that keeps families together and treats women fairly this month. The month of fasting will culminate April 7-9th, 2014 when 100 women will fast in DC for 48 hours.
Click here to sign the petition urging Speaker Boehner to meet with these courageous women in DC in April.
At 6:30 am on March 31, 50 women and men gathered at the NW Detention Center to kick off the Washington State participation in ACT. FAST Women’s Fast for Families. Some of us were there because we were sentenced to community service for participation in an occupation of the state Republican Party headquarters where we urged our representatives to support HR 15 for comprehensive immigration reform. Inspired by people who are currently detained and fasting for human treatment in the privately run Detention Center, we decided to participate in ACT. FAST and use some of our community service hours to raise funds to help the detainees.
In 2013, an average of 177 people were deported every hour of the work week. 177 families were ripped apart every hour. Millions more immigrants live in fear every day that they, or a family member, will be detained and deported. All this week, we are tracking the number of deportees every hour through each working day.
Being at the GEO Group’s privately run detention center meant we were there to bear witness to some of the stories of family members and detainees. We heard from a woman who was leaving the center with two little girls – frustrated because she was bringing them to visit their father, pulled from his home of 23 years; they heard he had until April 16 to get his papers together. He was deported, without warning, the night before. We listened to the disabled young mother tell about coming to meet with her husband, a 15 year US resident and his lawyer, only to find him gone. Deported the night before. She’s left with an infant and a toddler, their family’s primary source of income, gone.
We talked with some detainees, released – but to what? One young man was picked up at work, held for months, finally released. He took a cab straight to work, hoping his job will still be there, not sure what happened to his apartment during his time away without funds for rent. Another was picked up on a minor traffic violation in Maryland, shipped to Texas, to Arkansas, finally across the country to Tacoma, away from access to his home and family, knowing no one but another detainee in this strange city. We heard about conditions in the unregulated center – solitary confinement for speaking up for humane treatment, bright lights throughout the night, inedible food.
I was arrested with 32 other women in November. We went home that evening, we were free while waiting for sentencing, we are still free. We didn’t worry for an instant that an ICE official would come to our homes or our workplaces to pick us up. We are free to move about the community, free to protest, free to speak up about injustice. We were charged with a crime, but the far greater crime is to do nothing in the face of a system that destroys families, that punishes people for trying to build a better life, workers whose tax dollars are going to support the very institution that destroys their hopes and dreams. To fail to act, as Republicans in Washington state, and around the country are doing – to continue a system where GEO Group and similar private prison complexes are profiting from the ruination of families – that is the real crime.
Throughout this week we’ll be holding 24 hour fasts in our organizations – the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; SEIU 1199 NW; UFCW 21; AFT Washington; Planned Parenthood NW; El Centro de la Raza; One America; Washington CAN; and culminating on April 7 with Casa Latina. We’re raising money for the detainees through tinyurl.com/SupportTheFast. We’re calling on our congresspeople to sign on to the Dispatch letter to bring HR 15 to the floor of the House for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. We’re calling on President Obama to put an end to deportations until we have a comprehensive, humane, and moral system.