Why does the United States hate Samira Hakimi, her sister Nazifa, and their young children?

 

Samira Hakimi

Samira Hakimi, her sister Nazifa, their respective husbands, and Samira’s two children were threatened by the Taliban in their home country, Afghanistan. The Hakimi family established and ran a high school and a private university, based on Western curricula, media of instruction English and Dari. The schools more than welcomed, they encouraged women to attend. For example, they offered more than half of their scholarships to women. For three years, the family weathered intensifying Taliban threats. Finally, last year, they fled Afghanistan. At the time of their departure, Nazifa was pregnant. In December, they crossed from Mexico into the United States and applied for asylum. They were all detained. Samira Hakimi, her 4- and 8-year-old children ended up in Karnes County Residential Center, as did her sister Nazifa and her newborn child. The husbands were detained elsewhere in Texas. In late May, Samira Hakimi and her two children were afforded asylum. Not her sister, nor her sister’s ten-month-old son, nor the husbands. Samira Hakimi knows why she was kept for six months, and why her family is still inside: “They told us you will only be a couple of days in there. I never thought that I would be detained here for such a long time. That I’m detained here because I’m from Afghanistan and that’s all. But I’m human.” Why does the United States hate Samira Hakimi, her sister Nazifa, and their young children?

The State is not supposed to hold families in detention for long periods of time. A federal judge arrived at that decision last year, and, as of now, that decision still holds … except that it means less than nothing in the immigration gulag. How is one supposed to respond when one is six months into a maximum three months’ stay in prison? What is one supposed to do when one’s children suffer day in day out, asking when they’re going to leave? How is one supposed to breathe surrounded by ever thickening despair? Samira Hakimi tried asking questions: “Here, no one talks to us. They don’t give us the reason why I’m detained in here. I never thought that I would be detained here for such a long time.” After months of no response, Samira Hakimi decided to take her own life, thinking that if she died, her children would be released from detention. She was found; taken to hospital, under guard; and then returned to Karnes.

Last week, Samira Hakimi and her two young children were released from Karnes, and are now `free’ in San Francisco. Samira Hakimi is 31 years old.

Two years ago, almost to the day, 19-year-old Lilian Yamileth Oliva Bardales, a Honduran asylum seeker also held in Karnes, tried to commit suicide. She and her four-year-old child had been in Karnes since October 2014. Lilian Oliva Bardales left a note, part of which, translated, read: “I write this letter so you know how it feels to be in this damn place for 8 months. You don’t understand that people’s lives have no price and you cannot buy it with money. You don’t have a heart for anybody. You just lie and humiliate all of us who have come to this country.” That was two years ago.

Since then, the situation has only grown more toxic. Laws against the detention of minors are routinely, and increasingly, ignored. Immigration detention death rates are skyrocketing. From October 1, 2015 to September 31, 2016, 10 people died in immigrant detention centers. From October 1, 2016 to the end of May, a week ago, eight people have already died in ICE custody.

Why does the United States hate Samira Hakimi and her family? Because they’re Afghan. Why does the United States hate Lilian Oliva Bardales and her son? Because they’re Honduran. Why does the United States hate Samira Hakimi, her sister Nazifa, Lilian Oliva Bardales, and their children? Because they’re vulnerable women and children who asked for help, because they’re human.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Carbonated) (Photo Credit 2: Grassroots Leadership)

What happened to Kindra Chapman? The new normal for jails and prisons

Kindra Chapman

On Monday, July 13, #BlackLivesMatter activist and outspoken critic of police brutality Sandra Bland was “found” dead in a Texas jail. On Tuesday, July 14, in Homewood, Alabama, 18-year-old Black teenager Kindra Chapman was arrested, at 6:22 pm. At 7:50 pm, Kindra Chapman was found dead, hanging by a bed sheet in a holding cell.

While the case of Sandra Bland has attracted extensive and intensive attention, with one or two exceptions, the death of Kindra Chapman has not.

Suicide in jails and prisons, and in particular women’s jails and prisons, is the new normal, and not only in the United States. For example, just yesterday, it was reported that, in the United Kingdom, the number of people dying in police custody has reached its highest level for five years. We reported on this earlier in the year. The story’s the same in Italy.

Meanwhile, the jails of America are filling up to choking as the prisons are “releasing”, and women, and especially Black women, have been the principle actors, and targets, of this new phase of mass incarceration. And then there are the immigration detention centers. At Women In and Beyond the Global, we have been covering this trend for years. Here are just some of the individual women’s stories we’ve followed.

In 2007, in a Canadian prison, after years of mental health torment and begging for help through self-harm, 19-year-old Ashley Smith killed herself, on suicide watch, while seven guards followed orders, watched and did nothing. Now Ashley Smith haunts the Canadian Correctional Servicesor doesn’t.

In 2013, in England, Ms. K died. Her death was exemplary. A woman enters prison for the first time, a troublesome woman, and within weeks is found hanging in her cell. For the Ombudsman researchers, Ms K’s case is “one example” of the “failure” to “consider enhanced case review process” when a prisoner’s history suggests “wide ranging and deep seated problems.”

Last year, on Thursday, September 18, Megan Fritz hung herself. On Monday, September 22, Mary Knight did the same. Both women were incarcerated at Pennsylvania’s York County Prison when they committed suicide. Yet neither woman was on suicide watch. Why not?

Josefa Rauluni left the island nation of Fiji for Australia, where he applied for asylum, or “protection”. He was turned down. He was taken to Villawood Detention Centre, run by Serco. He continually appealed the decision, saying he feared for his life if he returned to Fiji. In response, the State told Josefa Rauluni that he would be deported on September 20, 2010. The night of September 19, Josefa Raulini sent two faxes to the Ministerial Intervention Unit at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. They read, ”If you want to send me to Fiji, then send my dead body”. The State did nothing. On the morning of September 20, 2010, Josefa Raulini informed the guards, “I’m not going, if anyone goes near me, I will jump“. The guards did nothing for a while, and they they tried force. As they moved in, Josefa Raulini jumped from a first floor balcony railing. He dove, head first, hit the ground, and died. The State did nothing; the Villawood staff had no suicide prevention training.

On December 20th 2013 Lucia Vega Jimenez committed suicide, hanging herself in a shower stall of a bleak border facility at the Vancouver International Airport under the jurisdiction of Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA. She died eight days later in a hospital. She somehow found a rope and hanged herself. Who brought the rope and who tied the knot?

Lilian Yamileth Oliva Bardales, 19 years old, and her four-year-old son had been held in Karnes “Family Detention Center” from October to June. She had applied for asylum, explaining that she had fled Honduras to escape an abusive ex-partner, six years older than she, who had beaten her regularly since she was 13. Her application was denied. In early June, she locked herself in a bathroom and cut her wrists. She was removed from the bathroom, held for four days under medical “supervision” during which she was denied access to her attorneys, and then deported.

The line from Sandra Bland to Kindra Chapman is direct, a line of Black Women killed in police custody. The coroner’s report may say they hanged themselves, and they may have, but if there’s an epidemic of self harm and suicide and the State does nothing, that’s public policy, and it’s murder. Likewise the line between Canadian Ashley Smith and English Ms. K and Mary Fritz and Mary Knight and Kindra Chapman is direct, as is the line that binds asylum seekers and immigration detention prisoners Josefa Rauluni, Lucia Vega Jimenez, and Lilian Yamileth Oliva Bardales. These women, and men, are captives in jails and prisons in which there is no suicide prevention training or planning. Quite the contrary, prisoner suicide is part of the plan. #IfIDieinPoliceCustody say my name. If she dies in police custody, #SayHerName.

 

(Photo Credit: al.com)

 

Lilian Oliva Bardales: “In prison when I haven’t committed any crime”

Lilian Yamileth Oliva Bardales, 19 years old, and her four-year-old son have been held in KarnesFamily Detention Center” since last October. She had applied for asylum, explaining that she had fled Honduras to escape an abusive ex-partner, six years older than she, who had beaten her regularly since she was 13. Her application was denied. Last Wednesday, she locked herself in a bathroom and cut her wrists. She was removed from the bathroom, held for four days under medical “supervision” during which she was denied access to her attorneys, and then, on Monday, suddenly moved from Karnes, presumably for deportation. From beginning to now, the treatment of Lilian Oliva Bardales has been a national disgrace.

Oliva Bardales left a note, the translation of which reads, in part: “I write this letter so you know how it feels to be in this damn place for 8 months. You don’t understand that people’s lives have no price and you cannot buy it with money. You don’t have a heart for anybody. You just lie and humiliate all of us who have come to this country … I do this because only God knows what I have suffered in my country. I come here so this country can help me but here you’ve been killing me little by little with punishment and lies in prison when I haven’t committed any crime. What hurts me the most is that I saw how my brother was killed and how it’s hurt my son and all the abuse that we suffered in my country. You don’t believe me you never wanted to give me my freedom. I do this because I would rather be dead than seeing my son fail along with me. Maybe you are not fathers or mothers to understand the reasons and the suffering that we live in this place together with our children. You would not like to be locked up in a place like this the way we are here suffering with our children. What I tell you is that nobody lives forever in this world one day we are all going to die and give an account to God. I do this because I don’t feel any life going back to my country. That’s why I waited so long so you could take a decision on my case but you have treated us worse than an animal …That’s why I do this because you were bad to me and my son. We did not deserve this. now you want to deport me after spending 8 months here.”

That’s “family detention”. It is the place where mercy dies a slow, tortured, mean, evil death:

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.”

When mercy seasons justice. When degradation, abuse, torture and despair season the appeal for asylum … what then? Where are Lilian Oliva Bardales and her four-year-old son?

 

(Image Credit: McClatchydc.com)