#ShutDownBerks: The Mothers of Berks launch a hunger strike

 


This week, twenty-two women held in the Berks County Family Detention Center launched an indefinite hunger strike. After so many violations of their dignity and of the humanity of their children, the Mothers of Berks, las Madres Berks as they call themselves, still believe in humanity, not only their own but that of their captors, and so, after the violence and lies and campaigns designed to teach them despair, they continue to write open letters and to launch new campaigns. They continue to wage hope. This week, hope is a hunger strike, to the death if necessary.

The women continue to say that peace, love and justice will prevail over violence. The violence comes in many ways. The State forces the women into prison. The State forces the women’s children into prison. It forces the women to watch the children suffer. Then, the State lies. More than lies, it covers the women and children in ever intensifying blankets of lies, as it attempts to poison the very concepts of asylum, refuge, and humanity with lies.

The Madres Berks’ letter reads, in part:

“The Immigration Department has made a public announcement stating that in family detention center parents and children are detained no longer than 20 days.

WE WANT TO DISPROVE THIS INFORMATION!!

We are 22 mothers who are detained at Berks Family Residential Center being mothers who have been from 270 days to 365 days in detention with children ages 2 to 16 years old, depriving them of having a normal life, knowing that we have prior traumas from our countries, risking our own lives and that of our children on the way until we arrived here, having family and friends who would be responsible for us and who are waiting for us with open arms and that immigration refuses to let us out. Seeing these injustices, we have decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike until we obtain our immediate freedom because all of us left our countries of origin fleeing violence, threats and corruption that not even the government of each of our countries in Central America can control.

On many occasions our children have thought about SUICIDE because of the confinement and desperation that is caused by being here. The teenagers say BEING HERE, LIFE MAKES NO SENSE, THAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO BREAK THE WINDOW TO JUMP OUT AND END THIS NIGHTMARE, and on many occasions they ask us if we have the courage to escape. Other kids grab their IDs and tighten them around their necks and say that they are going to KILL themselves if they don’t get out of here. The youngest kids (2 years old) cry at night for not being able to express what they feel. For a long time, the children have not been eating well, but they have never paid attention to our complaints about the food until now.

We are desperate and we have decided that: WE WILL GET OUT ALIVE OR DEAD.If it is necessary to sacrifice our lives so that our children can have freedom: WE WILL DO IT!”

The women signed the letter as “Mother with … “; for example, “Mother with 6-year-old-daughter with 365 days in detention.” 22 women; 25 children, ranging in age from 2 to 16; six children are four and under. 47 women and children share 5923 days behind bars, almost 16 years. This is the bitter math of democracy today. This is, and cannot be, our truth. The women of Berks say they deserve freedom today, and they say their captors deserve to set them free.

Someone once wrote,

“The ministers lie, the professors lie, the television lies, the priests lie.
What are these lies?
They mean that the country wants to die …
These lies mean that something in the nation wants to die.”

The Mothers of Berks refuse to die, though they are ready to do so for their children … and for ours. They are the part of the nation that wants to live, that wants to move from the violence and trauma to the better math of democracy and justice, which is that of love. #ShutDownBerks #EndFamilyDetention #Not1More

 

(Photo Credit: Telesurtv)

#ShutDownBerks: The mothers of Berks Family Detention Center demand justice!

The United States built a special hell for immigrant women and children, Berks Family Detention Center. While U.S. immigration policy has swung between hang-em-high and hang-em-higher, the one constant since 2001 has been Berks Family Detention, which from the beginning has been criticized for inhumane treatment and general brutality towards its prison populations, largely women and children. Last year, the women inside Berks turned up the heat, and the Center’s license was revoked. That hasn’t mean the prison closed, though. It continues to operate, without a license, while appealing the decision. Meanwhile, the brutality continues. The most recent turn is an outbreak of what could be shigellosis, which would be particularly dangerous for children. Despite documented symptoms, the Center has refused treatment. The response of ICE has been, “Go back to where you came from.” Increasingly poor health and more and more damaged bodies is part of the plan, especially for immigrant women and children.

A mother of a five-year old daughter wrote, “My daughter has been having diarrhea for about three weeks now and we went to see a doctor but they did not give us any medication not even serum. With every passing day her behavior is getting worse and the psychologist just tells me to be patient. I need you to give me the adequate medication and that you give me the opportunity to take my case outside of here. I am not a criminal. You gave the opportunity to other persons that have been deported to leave, why did you not give it to me. It has been more than four months that I have been detained.”

ICE responded, “Thank you! You may dissolve [sic] your case at any time and return to your country. Please use the medical department in reference to health related issues.”

You may dissolve your case at any time and return to your country, which means, “Die here, in custody, or at home. It’s all the same to us, and thank you! Have a nice day.”

This week, mothers inside Berks petitioned to be heard, concerning the license issue and more. They want to describe the conditions inside and the impact on their children and on themselves. According to Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, “As the minority chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am intimately familiar with lawful and appropriate detention conditions and protocols. While the Berks facility is not a state prison under my purview, it is a facility in our Commonwealth that is currently holding human beings, including children, against their will in conditions that seem negligent, abusive, and tragic. Though the legal status of the facility is in question, the treatment of human beings should not be.”

The treatment of human beings should not be in question, but it is. The very humanity of human beings, Central American women and children, is continually denied and diminished, by the “humane treatment” of Berks Family Detention Center. Berks is a prison designed as a house of the dead, with a cheerful “Thank you!” over its entrance door.

Last month, thirty mothers in Berks wrote an open letter: “Our children have suffered psychological damage, and many of them have suffered health-wise, because of this confinement, and not to mention the racist abuse and poor treatment from certain members of the staff in this detention center, but especially by the agents of ICE that play and mock our dignity as immigrants. We came here seeking refuge. We came to this country to save our lives and the lives of our children.”

They came as refugees and were dumped into cages, where they were told to rot or return. This is the syntax of asylum: you may dissolve your case at any time and return to your country. #Not1More #ShutDownBerks #SetHerFree

 

(Photo Credit: vamosjuntos.org)