Girl in Detention Draws Her Hope: ‘I Want to Be Free’

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"Quiero ser livre" or "I want to be free"
“Quiero ser livre” or “I want to be free”

Over the past year, we have been telling you about the government’s rapid expansion of detaining mothers and children arriving at our borders seeking protection. This month marks one year since the start of that expansion with the opening of the Artesia, NM family detention facility. Since July 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has booked over 6,300 mothers and children into a family detention facility; some families have now been detained for over a year.

A number of developments unfolded last week that indicate positive momentum towards ending family detention.

Members of Congress continued raising their voices against this inhumane practice. Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives visited the Dilley and Karnes family detention facilities in Texas. Those who traveled to Texas to witness the conditions at the nation’s two largest family detention facilities include Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). They were overwhelmed and dismayed at what they saw.

At a press conference about their visit, Rep. Roybal-Allard stated

… [the detention facilities] are prisons. And when you go there, there’s a playground, but you know what? We didn’t see any children playing on that playground. They were holding on to their mothers.

She then recounted that as she had a conversation with a mother, the woman’s daughter drew a picture beside them. As the Congresswoman prepared to leave, the child handed her a picture that in Spanish says “Quiero ser libre” or, “I want to be free.”

Just prior to the Representatives’ press conference, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson released a statement outlining reforms to family detention. While LIRS is heartened by the Administration’s acknowledgment in this statement that long-termfamily detention is an inefficient use of resources, LIRS maintains, however, that any amount of time in detention causes spiritual, psychological and emotional suffering to families and urges the immediate implementation of lower-cost and more humane alternatives to detention.

There is simply no humane way to detain families and we need your voice to demand an end to this practice. Here are two ways you can raise your voice:

  • Visit LIRS’s Action Center to send a message to your Member of Congress asking them to speak out in support of detained mothers and children

We cannot wait any longer while these vulnerable women and children are deprived of their liberty. Thank you for continuing to stand for welcome and for keeping the slow march towards freedom moving forward.

To receive updates about advocacy issues like ending family detention, please subscribe to our Stand For Welcome newsletter.

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