Why I’m Wearing a GPS Tracking Monitor for Lent: Part 1

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Linda Hartke wears a GPS tracker for Lent.Here at LIRS our mission is to witness to God’s love for all people and stand with and advocate for migrants and refugees. Over the past twelve months, the numbers of women and children coming from Central America have dramatically increased. Government agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have resorted to tagging women with ankle monitors before releasing them from detention. In solidarity with these women, I’m wearing a GPS tracker for the six weeks of Lent.

As many Christians begin their Lenten journey, it is a frequent practice to give up something that we like as a sign of sacrifice and a daily reminder of these days that take us with Jesus and his disciples to Jerusalem, to a hilltop used to brutally execute criminals, and to a grave. There have been years when I have followed this path and chosen to give up sweets, or bread, or alcohol. But this year, instead of giving something up, I have decided to add something to my daily routine.

As a sign of solidarity with thousands of Central American and Mexican women who have fled their homeland and made a perilous journey to the United States with their children, I have placed a GPS tracking device on my left ankle, similar to those that are most often placed by our government on sex offenders or other criminals. I find it shocking that mothers, who have come to this country I love, seeking protection and safety for their children, are shackled with GPS devices as if they were criminals, while they await their appearance before an immigration judge. It is true.

Of course, the device I am using is not real – it is a toy. And yet wearing it is a stark reminder of the realities that so many women face. The band now voluntarily wrapped around my ankle for 40 days is made of soft rubber – and, while uncomfortable, it does not cut in to my skin and cause sores as the real thing does for so many women. It does not publicly alert me to supervisory check-in meetings in a booming voice emanating from the device itself. It does not require me to sit near a charger and plug myself into the wall, lest it lose charge and I be considered incompliant. And, I don’t become anxious if I spend too many hours standing in one location for fear that ICE will think I’m working, without a permit. And the shackle that I wear is mostly plastic, with a small blinking light – certainly not as heavy as the real thing.

HartkeLentGPS
LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke attaches her ‘ankle monitor’ to begin her Lenten journey.

And yet, one week into this journey, I am already imagining – what will people think when they see my ankle tracking device? How will they react? I will wear slacks to hide it, but what will happen on the bus, at church, in meetings, at the airport? It will change my everyday life – it will be a surprising journey this Lent. But it will also serve as a tangible reminder: not for a minute will I forget the mothers from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador seeking safety and a future for their children.

I hope you will join me in this journey and hold immigrant mothers in your prayers.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

Joel 2:12-13

To read more about Central American and Mexican mothers seeking asylum in the United States, read this New York Times article, Ankle Monitors Weigh on Immigrant Mothers Released From Detention. Please join us in taking action by tweeting or sharing this post on Facebook.

Continue on to Part 2 of Linda’s Lenten series.

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