They Took My Mother and Locked Her Up

By Luissana Santibanez

13 months ago, because of her “illegal status,” my mom was taken away and sent to an Immigrant Detention Center where she awaits her deportation. She sits in her jail cell as if she were a criminal and is being deprived every type of meaningful contact and physical activity.

Hace un ano, por ser “illegal”, se llevaron a mi madre al Centro de Detencion de Inmigrantes donde espera su deportacion. La tienen detenida en la carcel como si fuera una criminal y la depriven de cualquier foma de contacto phisico significante.
We, her children, cannot hold or hug her during visitation hours. Instead, we are forced to communicate through the censored phones that have been place in between the bullet proof barrier that separates us.

Nosotros, su hijos, no podemos tocar ni abrazarla durante las horas de visita. Enves, estamos forcados a comunicarnos por medio de los telephonos censurados que estan hubicados en hambos lados de la barrerra de vidrio que nos separa.

I have watched the color of her skin turn from a beautiful dark and roasted color brown to a pale and lifeless, sickly white.

He visto como el color de su piel ha cambiado de un color de Tierra Hermosa a un color palido y sin vida.

My mom, once a proud and hardworking Mexican tells us she is fine and that she is strong enough to make it through the process, but I know better. I know better because even though she does not tell us, I can see it through her eyes, screaming with raging anger and indescribable pain the horrible hardship that she has been forced to live under.

Mi Jeficita, antes una Mexicana fuerte, trabajadora y orgullosa nos dice que esta bien y que tiene las fuerzas para continuar este processo, pero yo conosco la verdad. Yo lo reconosco, porque aunque no nos quiera decir, lo puedo mirar en sus ojos, que gritan con rabia y un dolor indescriptible de la terrible realidad que la han forzado a vivir .

Even though she does not tell us, I can sense it through the words written in all of her letters that we, her children, are the only thing keeping her sane.

Yo lo reconosco, porque aunque no nos quiera decir, se siente en las palabras que nos escribe. Y es claro que nosotros, sus hijos, somos lo unico que le da la fuerza de vivir y seguir luchando.

This is what the prison system does to you!
It dehumanizes the individual by ripping and tearing apart the very spirit that keeps him/her alive.
It demoralizes the human body and sentences him/her to a life of complete silence and compliance; a life of social death.

Esto es lo que el sistema de prision nos hace!
Dehumaniza al individual, destruyendo y derotando el mismo espiritu que nos da fuerzas para vivir.
Demoraliza al cuerpo humano y lo condena a una vida de silencio y inexistente. Los condena a una muerte social.

They cage and handcuff you behind thick cemented walls and electric barbed wire fences with rifled security guards posted on high towers… then turn around and tell the public that they are “correctional facilities” or “temporary detention centers”

Los enjaulan detras de paredes cementadas y cercas electricas de alambre con guardias armadas fijados en torres altas……y les dicen al publico que son “instalaciones correccionales” o “centros temporales de detencion”

Bullshit! They don’t give a damn about the people of color locked desperately within their cells and could care even less about the families (like ours) that are separated and often times destroyed during this time.

A ellos no les vale madre las personas de color que se encuentran desesperadamente dentro de sus celulas. Ni les vale mucho menos las destrucción y separacion de las familias como la mia.

Huge companies like Halliburton and Wackenhut Corrections Corporation profit from our pain and denigration in their cells.

.Las companias higantes como Halliburton y Wackenhut Corrections Corporation se benefician de nuestro dolor y denigracion en las celulas que ellos construyen.

This is not a new issue, it hasn’t been for the Chicano in this country and it definitely hasn’t been for the African American, but it is in many ways a new issue for this generation because every day we begin and live through a new struggle. This is why we are here today! To unite our struggles and to go forward.

Esto no es una nueva batalla porque es una lucha que han peleado los Chicanos y AfroAmericanos en este pais por muchos anos. Pero SI es una nueva lucha para la nueva generacion porque cada dia se empieza y se vive una nueva batalla.

If only I were strong enough to break through the barriers that separate my mom from us….
If only I were powerful enough to legalize every undocumented immigrant in this country…
If only I were radical enough to overthrow the system that has intended on keeping people of color in levels of extreme poverty and marginalization.

Si tuviera la fuerza para romper la barrerra que nos separa de nuestra madre……
Si tuviera el poder para legalizar a cada uno de los migrantes indocumentados en este pais….
Si fuera mas radical mi esfuerzo para derrotar el sistema que intenta mantener la gente de color en niveles de pobreza extrema y marginalización……

I am just one person, but together, VICTORY can be achieved. Hasta la Victoria Siempre!!!

Note: For a while I felt a little uncertain about exposing my family’s hardship because of my and my younger siblings’ sensitivity to the issue. In fact, I wrote this piece after failing to find someone to speak on campus for the May 1st Peace and Justice Day [at the University of Texas at Austin.] The event was being organized by the Center for African and African American Studies and took place a couple of hours before the larger march at the Capitol. My intention was to connect the African American struggle against prison systems to the current crisis that entire immigrant communities are facing in regard to Immigrant Detention Centers.

I don’t mind if my name is posted with the publication. My main objective with this is to promote awareness about the mass incarceration of immigrants in private prisons while also addressing the physical, emotional and financial distress that the families of those being detained must also live through….

–Luissana Santibanez

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