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Lions Roar : September 2019
well-being of both mothers and children. Here is a poem I wrote after interviewing a Guatemalan mother and child inside the Karnes detention facility in 2016. ELENA You told me about the rogue gangs who murdered your husband, taking your money after selling tortillas on the streets all day. When you resisted, they beat you. They threatened to take your son and make him a boy soldier. They threatened to take your daughter and make her a sex slave. So you gathered your family and friends one night. They each brought what little money they had. The coyote arrived, promising safe passage. He tells you, “When you see the man with the big hat, Put your empty hands in front of you and they will take care of you.” But coyote disappeared before reaching the border. You were lost without food and water for three days. Finally you see the man with the big hat. Your children cling to you. You put your empty hands in front of you. You hear the snap of handcuffs on your outreached hands. They let their dog menace your terrified child. They put you and your children in the “icebox,” A cement floor with no blanket. You have been in the “family residential center” for nine months. A prison with steel bars, guards with guns, cribs in cells. Rows and rows of tiny shoes stocked in the supply room. You tell me your nine-year-old son was separated from you. You have not seen him since you arrived. Your daughter refuses to go to school. She tells me she’s afraid one of her friends will be gone. And where do they go? She answers, “Deported back home and murdered.” You tell me she has night terrors, waking from sleep crying and trembling. She tells me she sees the giant dog bearing down on her. You tell me she’s losing weight and won’t eat. And you tell me they put black pepper all over the food, that the water tastes bad. While the guards have water bottles hanging from their belts, the FDA approved the drinking water where fracking machines surround the “family residential center.” The guard stands and announces, “Time’s up!” The little girl bolts straight up, marches to the locked door. You wipe your tears with the back of your hand and say, Por favor, ayúdame, please help me. Here is what I wrote about our collective experience at the Crystal City Pilgrimage and Protest in March. WE CAME BACK FOR YOU We came back for you because...we know mass incarceration. We came back for you because...we know family separation. We came back for you because...we know deportation. Because...we know barbed wire. Because...we know indefinite detention. We came back for you because...we care. * Some say, “It’s not our fight, it’s not the same.” But we say incarceration of innocent people is inhumane, we say mothers and children are not to blame. Back in 1942, we disappeared. Empty chairs in the classroom, empty homes, shops, and farms. America turned their backs on us. No one marched, no one protested, there were no petitions, there was no outrage. Silence filled the empty spaces of our invisibility. Silence was the scourge of our trauma. SATSUKI INA, Ph D (second from right) was born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum security prison where Japanese American dissidents were held during WWII. She is Professor Emeritus at California State University, Sacramento and has a psychotherapy practice specializing in community trauma. PHOTOBYKIYOSHIINA LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 70