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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

Immigrant Mothers Remembered as Activists Deliver “Mamas Day” Cards to Detention Centers Across the U.S.

May 8, 2016

Activists and artists across the country collaborated to deliver “Mama’s Day cards to mothers imprisoned in ICE detention centers as a part of the Strong Families Mamas Day e-card campaign to highlight family formations that are often marginalized in media and policy discussions. The mothers in the detention centers are among the 34,000 immigrants that Congress requires to be locked up on any given day due to a provision in the Department of Homeland Security’s Appropriations Act.

“Our members are sending Mother’s Day cards to mothers locked up in immigration detention centers to show our support for their struggle against an unjust immigration system that is tearing families apart,” said Matt Nelson, managing director of Presente.org. “This is not the way our country should be treating mothers and families who have come here in search of refuge and a better life. We want these mothers to know that they have thousands of allies who recognize them as loved-ones, who have not forgotten about them, and who are doing what we can to change the system that is locking them up and separating them from their families.”

More than 5000 Mamas day cards expressing messages of solidarity were gathered from supporters nation-wide. Activists then delivered hard copies of the cards to mothers in detention centers across the country. One of the delivery sites was the Berks Family Residential Center in Berks County, PA, an ICE detention center that lost its operating license in February due its unlawful practice of imprisoning immigrant families including children.

“Our goal with Mamas Day has always been to highlight mothers who are often invisible in popular representations of motherhood like single moms, queer families, incarcerated parents and immigrant mothers,” said Kalpana Krishnamurthy, Policy Director at Forward Together, the organization that established the Mamas Day campaign.

“Our immigration system has been broken for more than 20 years. For many immigrant mothers, the primary motivation behind leaving their home countries is to provide a better life for their families. The real crime is that these acts of love and sacrifice are even considered criminal. It is a travesty that these families must spend their first Mother’s Day in the U.S. in prison. We are proud be able to use Mamas Day to connect families and keep the focus on the how these broken policies and practices are impacting our communities.”

More than a dozen activist organizations collaborated to create, collect and distribute the cards to mothers imprisoned in ICE detention centers. The organizations say it is an important statement of solidarity.

“We have been organizing to close the Berks family detention center for over a year,” said Adanjesus Marin, State Director at Make the Road Pennsylvania. “The detained families have broken no laws; they have followed the rules in applying for asylum from the violence in Central America. The facility lost its operating license but remains and continues to imprison families. The only ones violating the law in this case is ICE. It is illegal to detain these families and we want bring awareness to their struggle.”

“During a visit to the US-Mexico border with CultureStrike last year, women who were held in detention centers there told us that writing and receiving letters to and from the outside is a way for them to keep hope alive,” said Julio Salgado, project lead with CultureStrike. “ As a cultural organizer and an artist who is undocumented but has never been in detention, I shaped our Visions From The Inside project to bring art to highlight the stories of people in detention who have a voice, but mainstream media chooses to ignore. Now we’re excited to share this art - through hand-delivered postcards and e-cards - to women being detained by immigration enforcement and individuals across the country expressing solidarity with them.”

Organizations participating in the delivery effort include:

Forward Together/Strong Families
Make the Road Pennsylvania
NWDC Resistance
Cara Pro Bono Legal Project
Vamos Juntos
Colibri Center for Human Rights
Coloradans For Immigrant Rights
Puente Human Rights Movement
Grassroots Leadership
Ministerios Nuevo Amanecer Church
We Belong Together
ACLU of Northern California

Forward Together is a national multi-racial organization that works with community leaders and organizations to transform culture and policy to catalyze social change. Our mission is to ensure that women, youth and families have the power and resources they need to reach their full potential.

Presente.org is the largest national Latino online organization advancing social justice with technology, media, and culture. Presente’s mission is to advance Latino power and create winning campaigns that amplify Latino voices; expand the political imagination and traditional boundaries; and foster inspiration for freedom, equity, and justice.

CultureStrike empowers artists to dream big, disrupt the status quo, and envision a truly just world rooted in shared humanity. We believe cultural work is key to creating systemic change. Since our founding in 2011, we have connected a national network of 200+ socially engaged artists, provided space and funding for professional and creative development, and spearheaded dozens of events and campaigns that have resonated in local venues, social media, and the halls of power.

Make the Road Pennsylvania organizes low-income and working class Latino immigrants in Lehigh and Berks Counties to fight for change in their communities. Launched in 2014, MRPA has already established a strong and growing base of committed members and has been actively advancing several campaigns including raising the minimum wage, pushing for municipal IDs and raising awareness of the damage that deportation does to families, through protests at the Berks County Detention Facility.