Things That Matter

Protests Against ICE Detention Centers Reached New Heights As Airplanes Typed Messages In The Sky Across The U.S.

A global pandemic is still gripping the United States – along with much of the world. But still many Americans headed outside over the long holiday weekend and, before the evening fireworks, were greeted by powerful anti-ICE messages written in the skies.

The skywriting campaign comes as much of the world’s attention is focused on Covid-19 and organizers hope to redirect some attention on the thousands of migrants who remain locked up in detention centers across the country.

Activists took to the skies at more than 80 sites across the country with a powerful message against U.S. immigration policy.

Over the July 4th weekend, two fleets of skytyping airplanes created artist-generated messages across the U.S. The fleet of aircraft targeted 80 different ICE detention facilities, immigration court houses, processing centers, and former internment camps. Written with water vapor, the messages are designed to be seen and read for miles.

Each message ended with #XMAP, which, when plugged into social media, directs users to an online interactive map that offers a view of the closest ICE facilities to the user.

Visitors to the event’s website are encouraged to donate to local funds like the Black Immigrant Bail Fund and join the #FreeThemAll campaign, which advocates for the release of detainees from crowded facilities, where social distancing is often impossible right now.

The ambitious project took a year to plan, and is one component of an artist-led protest against immigrant detention and America’s mass incarceration problem. With “In Plain Sight,” organizers are hoping to educate viewers—and to encourage the abolition of facilities such as these.

“I think the public is somewhat aware of what’s happening in detention centers—they’ve seen the images of kids in cages—but they don’t know the full scale,” said Cassils, in an interview with Quartz.

The team aimed to set a national record with its #XMAP campaign.

Credit: In Plain Sight

The artists reached out to the only skywriting company in the country (which owns the patent on skywriting) and learned that the largest campaign executed over U.S. soil involved about 80 sites and three fleets of planes. That established the project’s framework, and from there they went about the task of bringing on collaborators, many of whom have experiences with immigration and the detainment of oppressed minority groups.

The artists they tapped vary in age, gender identity, and nationality; some are formerly incarcerated, or are descended from the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Black, Japanese-American, First Nations and Indigenous perspectives are present, speaking to the historical intersections of xenophobia, migration, and incarceration.

The protests were seen throughout Southern California – from LA to San Diego.

Credit: In Plain Sight

In Southern California, the demonstration kicked off on the 4th of July at 9:30 a.m. above the Adelanto Detention Center, before traveling to downtown L.A., where 15-character messages will be left in the late morning airspace above immigration facilities, county and federal lockups and courthouses. The planes then traveled to the Arcadia and Pomona locations of internment camps where Japanese Americans where held prisoner during World War II.

Later in the afternoon, planes were seeing typing messages in the sky above the Terminal Island detention center, before traveling further south to Orange County and San Diego, where messages were left above courts and immigration offices.

The campaign also popped up in El Paso, TX, where a massacre last year left many Latinos dead.

Credit: In Plain Sight

Binational, El Paso-based artist Margarita Cabrera activated the El Paso-Juárez portion of the performance with her message “UPLIFT: NI UNX MAS” at the Bridge of the Americas.

“Uplift” refers to uplifting immigrant communities, as well as the border fence and other immigration detention facilities. “Ni unx más” was inspired by Mexican poet and activist Susana Chávez’s 1995 phrase “ni una muerta más,” or “not one more [woman] dead.” The phrase protests femicides in Mexico, particularly in Juárez. Cabrera used X to be gender-neutral. 

“This is a call to abolish this systematic violence and the incarceration and detention of our immigrants,” Cabrera told the El Paso Times. “We’re creating a sky activation, but we’re also grounding it with local events.”

Across the border in New Mexico, “ESTOY AQUI” and “SOBREVIVIRE” were respectively written over the Otero County Processing Center and Otero County Prison Facility. The messages draw from songs respectively by Shakira and Mexican pop star Monica Naranjo. Designed by artists Carlos Motta and Felipe Baeza, the full message, “I am here, I will survive,” is intended for both detainees and outside onlookers.

“We wanted to address those in the detention sites and acknowledge the fact that they are there, that we know they are there, and that they will be fine eventually even if their conditions are precarious and they are going through a difficult time right now,” Motta told the El Paso Times.

And in New York City, several major monuments became canvases for the activists’ message.

Credit: In Plain Sight

In New York City, the words “My pain is so big” were written over a detention center in downtown Brooklyn.

“To be human,” wappeared over Rikers Island and “Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia,” the name of the first immigrant to die from Covid-19 in detention was projected at the Statue of Liberty monument in Ellis Island.

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Things That Matter

Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

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This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Juan Zanella Gonzalez / Getty Images

For many Latinos, the word posada, evokes holiday celebrations surrounded by family and friends, singing, enjoying a warm meal (of tamales and ponche, of course), and spreading holiday cheer all around. Obviously, this year’s posadas will look very different but it’s more important than ever that we continue with traditions.

Posadas are steeped in the history of Mary and Joseph’s quest for safe refuge where the Virgin Mary could safely give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Given our current government’s cruel and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, the story of Mary & Joseph rings true with many people hoping to find a safer, better home in the United States. This is especially true for LGBTQ migrants who face unique challenges in both their journeys to the U.S. and their asylum experience.

Enter the LGBTQ Center Orange County. The center has proudly stood up to help the community in powerful and life-changing ways and their annual Queer Posada is one of the most important.

The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges in their quest for asylum and settlement in the U.S.

Credit: Lino de Jesús Herrera / Getty Images

LGBTQ detainees across the country have shared harrowing experiences of being mocked or tortured for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Many others have been sexually assaulted while in ICE custody or while waiting for their asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border. And transgendered and HIV-positive detainees have both been denied medically necessary healthcare that has posed a risk to their lives.

Migrant advocacy groups and several lawmakers have demanded that ICE release all LGBTQ detainees and anyone with HIV in the agency’s custody, because the government has repeatedly failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to them.

And Southern California is home to the nation’s largest undocumented community, which means organizations like the LGBTQ Center Orange County have their work cut out for them. However, the center has proudly stood up to help in powerful and life-changing ways.

Meet JB, who was detained at Adelanto Detention Center and relied on the help of the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

JB, who identifies as a transgender man, was a detainee at Adelanto Detention Center. While in custody he was denied access to his hormone therapies which had negative effects on both his physical and mental health.

JB credits the LGBTQ Center Orange County with saving his life. The Center was a consistent advocate for JB and helped provide much-needed cash and weekly visits.

You can hear more stories from LGBTQ migrants who have been helped by the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s countless programs by following our Snapchat account, which will feature more important voices.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County offers so many important programs that help migrants out in extraordinary ways.

So often, LGBTQ migrants make the journey to the U.S. alone and, therefore, don’t have the family support (neither financial or emotional) that’s so important. But that’s where the LGBTQ Center Orange County comes in to help fill that void.

Volunteers and employees of The Center do so much for the community: from attending numerous events throughout the year to educate and provide much-needed resources or sending $20 to a detainee so they can have a filling meal, to helping advocate for the end of the partnership between Santa Ana Police and the Orange County Sheriff with ICE, to providing weekly citizenship classes to those who need them.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County has also been a leader in assisting eligible residents with their DACA applications, which is a cause close to the hearts of Luis Gomez and Jonatan Gutierrez – both DACA recipients who work with the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

And now it’s our turn to give back at the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s posada.

Obviously, this year’s posada tradition looks very different but the LGBTQ Center Orange County is working to keep the tradition alive by taking it online and making it free for all to attend. However, it is a critical fundraising event that enables the center to do all that it does for the LGBTQ migrant community across Southern California. 

And the work the center does is so important because it shouldn’t just be on detainees to speak out. All of us as part of the LGBTQ and migrant communities should support those in detention and speak out about the injustices they’re suffering in detention.

Donations from the Queer Posada will go toward the center’s LGBTQ Immigrant Fund. The unrestricted funds meet multiple needs from bonds, commissary funds, airline tickets to immigration filing fees. The center has also distributed checks to LGBTQ community members who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. You can get more information and RSVP for this free, virtual event here.

Plus it’s going to be a fun and free event that you won’t want to miss.

Not only will you be able to virtually hang out with members of the community and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC but there will also be a spirited round of lotería, a raffle, and a live performance by the LGBTQ Mariachi Arcoíris de Los Angeles.

During the Queer Posada, their will also be an exclusive screening of the nearly 15-minute Before and After Detention documentary, followed by a Q&A with the director Armando Ibañez. The film follows three trans women who were released from detention centers. Angela, Fernanda and Gladys live in Los Angeles, while their asylum status is pending. In the documentary, they talk about their lives in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico and being detained in the U.S.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County’s Queer Posada is taking place this Saturday, December 12 at 6 p.m. on Zoom, and is an important event for both the LGBTQ and migrant communities, one that you do not want to miss!

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