Today I helped an immigrant mother connect with desperately needed legal services for asylum. I can only pray it helps. Her story, like many others I have heard working in an urban maternity center for the past two years breaks my heart. It also breaks my heart to see comments that talk about “illegals” like they’re criminally subhuman.
So here’s a not-so-fun fact for today:
Did you know that customs is now putting ankle monitors on women who immigrate with children? The women can’t take them off to bathe, and they have to carry massive chargers in their handbags so they can plug into an outlet to recharge at a moment’s notice when a battery runs low. They are GPS tracked and subjected to weekly house arrests. If they leave their home (on “immigration visit” days) or ever let the battery run down on their monitor, they will be subject to immediate deportation. (Note that the constitutionality of constant search of a person by GPS monitoring has been challenged at the level of the Supreme Court as it relates to the 4th amendment: “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” However, protection under the 4th amendment seems to be only pertinent when it is proven that the continuous search is not “warranted.”)
Most undocumented women that I have worked with have suffered tremendously. I have had women describe being raped, forced to watch gang rapes of family members, seeing brothers and parents murdered, and having their families’ livelihoods endangered by gangs. Most of the “illegal” women who have told me stories like this have come from Honduras and El Salvador.
There is one mom I will never forget from a couple years ago who was very difficult to engage. I was told by staff that they thought she wasn’t bonding with her baby. She would mostly let her boyfriend speak for her and look off in another direction. As a bilingual staff member, I had been visiting her regularly, trying to gain her confidence. As a further attempt to help her, I took her a breastfeeding video in Spanish. I sat with her while she watched it, and by some miracle, by the end of the video, she became tearful and unexpectedly smiled.
At that moment, a floodgate suddenly opened, and she began telling me a mile-per-minute story of her immigration — of the dangers she escaped in her country, of the perilous trip she made, and of running across the border, pregnant, while being shot at, and how after passing through a detention center in Alabama she ended up in Indianapolis, and at our hospital to deliver her baby. She then looked at me, and she told me she didn’t expect people to be kind to her, but that hospital staff really had been kind. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
People do not risk coming here to be “illegal” or to “abuse” the system. Data shows that immigration from Central America has not declined despite deterrent efforts, and it is because people who are exposed to extremes of poverty and crime would risk anything to get somewhere better.
How lucky we are to be a land of “something better.”