Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is it a crime to be hungry?

Life-size cutouts symbolizing the 1,100 individuals deported every day
Maria asked this question as she recounted the horrors she lived through while detained for six months in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail and the Eloy detention center in Arizona. Maria is 62 years old. She was released 11 days ago and today she is here in D.C. to share her story. She was arrested during a workplace raid and is now considered a convicted felon, simply for working in the U.S. The raid was just one of the 75 unconstitutional raids ordered so far by Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona, where the epitome of anti-immigrant legislation is the law of the land.

To a room full of teary-eyed staffers from the offices of members of the House of Representatives, Maria recounted tales from her experience inside the Eloy detention center. She told us about the infections and illnesses she contracted due to lack of medical attention, the irony of having to work for $1 a day given that she was arrested precisely for working, the moldy food she was forced to eat, the maggots in the meat, which the guards claimed were simply extra sources of protein, and the emotional distress experienced by people who have been detained. Despite everything she has gone through, the trauma, and the fear that is now constantly with her, Maria is here in D.C. standing strong and sharing her story to make sure there is a stop to unnecessary detentions and deportations, and that people like her are not excluded from immigration reform.

Maria is just one of the over 100 people who will be gathering in D.C. for the National Convening of Persons in Deportation Proceedings.  They will be in D.C. this week for a series of actions demanding that President Obama put an end to all deportations. They will also be attending workshops designed to teach community members to fight deportation orders. The week is also the last week of a rolling fast that began in California in early March to bring attention to the more than 1,100 people deported each day.

The separation of families that occurs because of deportations causes immense pain and suffering for families and for whole communities. The courage and strength of people like Maria are truly inspiring. Let us use that inspiration to fuel our continued advocacy for just and compassionate policies. Let us continue to show love and care for all our brothers and sisters.