Children inside the belly of the beast

Somewhere inside a prison cell in Texas a little girl, her two younger sisters and their mother sit in isolation and fear wondering if the prison guards will come for them next.

They are being held captive at the Karnes County “family residential” center (a prison facility) along with hundreds of other womyn and children who were forced to escape for their lives from war and violence.  Many came north, running for their lives to seek refuge with their close relatives now living in the United States.

Can you imagine having to drop everything at once, go and grab your children and run for your lives?  Many of us Americans cannot imagine such a thing.  Where would you go?  Your mother/father’s house?  Your brother’s house?  What if they lived far away…but what if staying meant certain violent death for your and your children?

A few months ago hundreds of families – mostly womyn and children – did just that.  This was not some online coordinated event – this was war…a war directly/indirectly caused by the very government whose territory (through time and fate) was now home to their closest loved ones and the only and best option for survival that many of these womyn and children have.

It is no coincidence that many of them are indigenous.  They, like many indigenous communities from north to south, exist in the brown area between capitalism, free trade agreements, American imperialism, colonization and ongoing occupation in their own countries and ancestral homelands.

Many of them do not speak a European language – neither Spanish nor English.    They followed the ancestral routes north (as all our indigenous communities have done for thousands of years) but stepped directly into the belly of the beast.

Upon reaching the United States (and somehow surviving the deadly route north through Mexico with young children in hand and little more than the clothes on their backs) these mothers and young children were thrown into prison – but not just any prison…a private prison, a for-profit corporation hired by the U.S. federal government to fill a certain number  of prison beds with a certain type of pre-defined category of people that the government does not deem human that fiscal year or election term.

Since then and as a result of this “new business venture” that is the private prison industry, these womyn and children have been and continue to be systematically tortured  at the prison sites themselves.  The news recently reported that these womyn and children were sexually assaulted (in some cases as punishment and/or in front of each other.)  Repeated and eerie  testimonies of womyn and children (in different but similar concentration camps aka “former” prisons aka “family residential centers”) have also testified to systematically being put into “ice boxes” alive (particularly during inspections) and being fed bleach.*  Kids or moms are also put into solitary confinement – separating the child from the mother – and/or the threatened with it for “bad” or “unruly” behavior.

Furthermore, these womyn and children are entering a prejudiced American legal system whose operations are ever-more being dictated by the private prison corporations who have agreed to “host” the virtual courtrooms for these particular people.

In an ironic twist of fate, sometimes these virtual hearings and deportations (with multiple virtual parties across the U.S. who do not always speak the same language) are virtually “heard” in downtown San Antonio, Texas…just feet from one of the most notorious tourist spots in San Antonio – Market Square – an infamous place known to locals as “the gringo hot spot” where white tourists have specifically been solicited, welcomed and invited to visit for the past two centuries.

Keeping in mind that many of these womyn and children do not speak European languages (English or Spanish) they are subjected to the infinite and grossly detailed legal technicalities and criminal penalties that play out when people:

  • have no money to represent themselves in court
  • are unable to communicate with any human being in their very restricted reach
  • might not be able to explain why there was a war or their reasons for running for their lives to a judge (middle-class +) whose understanding of race relations, class, American history , American imperialism in Latin America and reality may not exactly be based IN reality.

These womyn and children are being systematically physically and legally abused through all the grey areas of the law.  Many of them get unfair trials, bonds they will never be able to afford…or otherwise have their universal human rights completely obliterated.

The children are speaking

The images below are hand written letters from three young girls inside the prison who are housed with their mother.

Letter 1:

1

October 31, 2014

We need your help to get out of here soon from this place because we feel bad, this place is making us depressed.  We did make friends with some other people here but yesterday they took 38 of them away.  I had 5 friends and it made me feel so bad because now they’re gone.  I hope that you can help us get out of here.

 

I dream of getting out of this place…to be able to study one day…to have a better future for my life.

Jackeline

Letter 2:

2We need your help to get out of this place to be with our families.  We cannot go to our country because there is poverty, violence, crime and there is no way to get a job or sometimes even education.  I ask you please to allow us your help because w can’t be in here any more.  We are depressed and deceived in this place…from making long lines to try to eat food to getting some sun…to buying things in the commissary.  Often times we have no money in our (prison bank) accounts.  The times they offer us food is scarce and the best food there is to eat is in the commissary…even though it is already bad.  There is so much more ugliness…

Thank you for your help,

Carmen

Letter 3:

3We need the help of all of you because we feel depressed and forgotten in thie place.  Although our beloved lawyer is doing everything humanly possible our case has dragged on because my mother has a deportation.  The food is horrible and to see some people come in but get good news has made us feel worse. 

Yesterday 10/30/14 to see that 38 families were deported from here after months of being here has made us feel deceived.  This country has been deceiving.  One of my friends was deported and that made me feel real bad.  There are people that just arrived and have gotten positive news.  But we cannot stand it any longer the longer we stay.

Every time some important people arrive, they fill the freezers [with people] because these visitors are important and do an inspection.

Please I beg all of you for your help.  Because I have no more faith in my country.

-Melisa

What can you do to help?

There is a coalition of people organizing around this issue on all fronts and Xicana Chronicles will be helping spread the word on news and actions.  The first thing you can do is share this story.  If you are interested in participating in the movement, please email: xicamedia ( a t ) gmail.com.

 

*NOTE:  While Texas has a damaging history of human experiments on Mexicans and indigenous communities (methods which the Nazis infamously studied and refined during WWII) it is not known why the practice of freezing and chemicals (bleach) are being performed.  Whether it is grounded in a belief of these womyn and children as “diseased” (as the media portrayed) or if they are unwilling and forced participants of a scientific study is unknown.  (See El Paso and Mission.)

 

Iris Rodriguez
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Iris Rodriguez

Artivist / Journalist / Rascuacha Tech / Network Producer at Xica Media
Iris Rodriguez is a digital strategist, multimedia producer, author, musical artist, and poet from San Antonio, Texas.Since 2002 her body of work has addressed environmental racism/justice, family detention,decolonization, cultural arts, guerrilla media, Xicanisma and public archives.
Her upcoming book, Return To The Red Road, is a collection of poetry, art, and stories about her journey through decolonization.Her newly opened musical production house, Tezcatlipoca Records, produces music of modern Cemanahuac.Her latest album, La Cultura Nos Cura, is a fusion of cumbia and indigenous Mexican instruments, earth- and spirit-conscious lyrics, and decolonial themes.Read full bio here.
Channels: Xicana Chronicles | End Family Detention | Xica Nation | Tezcatlipoca Records | MTX Files | Sound Cloud | Chinati Ixtlan | Texas UFW 2016
Iris Rodriguez
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