Every Saturday before Mother's Day Metro Portland area people drive three hours north to vigil outside the GEO, private detention center facility in an industrial part of Tacoma, WA. The vigil is jointly sponsored by Washington and Oregon faith communities, immigrant organizations and New Sanctuary congregations.
For the past two years my daughter Deborah and I have done this trip together in order to stand with and support the women and their families as they visit their husbands. We cannot go into the facility but we bring flowers, food and music for the visiting families. Mothers and their kids line up to visit husbands and fathers and uncles and cousins who have been detained by ICE.
We stand outside the fence surrounding the facility and post signs such as No Mas Separadas Familias/ No More Separated Families. There are sad faces on many of the visitors - what do they think of us as we sing, chant, and then finally put flowers on the fence to remind those inside that they are not forgotten. Each family has a story of loss. Recently, a Guatemalan family who I supported in Tucson, Arizona last fall wrote the following note to supporters about her husband's detention.
_"I lost 2 sons in Guatemala. They were killed. One was 18 years old and the other was only 16 years old. Its very hard for me every time I remember. It hurts me greatly. This is the reason why we left Guatemala. I migrated with my entire family, 5 kids and grandkids, because we no longer had life there. Here in the United States we asked to be given an opportunity, so my children could live and so their lives wouldn’t be taken like those of their brothers who are no longer with me. I ask you please to help me because my husband has been detained in immigration detention for 8 months now in Florence, Arizona. I want to ask you from the bottom of my heart for your help in reuniting my family with my husband because family separation is something very ugly and disturbing for our children."
Her story is similar to so many families who are trying to reunite across borders that have divided them. Get involved where ever you live - Visit detention centers, write to detainees, find a local immigrant rights group to volunteer.
Stay alert as ICE has just announced that they will begin to pick up families and children who arrived during the summer of 2014 and who have "overstayed their welcome." http://news.trust.org/item/20160512175550-7ykq5
In Portland, Oregon the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice is a part of the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition that maintains a 24 hour/ seven days a week emergency hotline for any family to contact if they fear that ICE will pick them up. The number is: 1-888-622-1510 - call if you hear reports of ICE sweeps of immigrants in your neighborhood.