“Home” (to be read aloud)

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in the airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles traveled
means something more than the journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child’s body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying —
leave,
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

–Warsan Shire, British-Somali poet

Tweet: mom, three small children drown trying to enter US

We now live in a world where we read tweets like this one:

Here’s how it happens: mom presents with her children at the border to ask for asylum. Either (a) she is given a number that will be called months from now, and she must stay in a hellish migrant camp in Mexico the meantime, or (b) she presents for asylum and is returned under the misnamed “Migrant Protection Protocol,” to wait in the hellish migrant camp in Mexico in the meantime. Having no food or clean diapers for the babies, and facing danger where she is, she decides to put them on a raft to cross into the Rio Grande. The raft flips, and she and her babies drown.

If we had provided an orderly and prompt process to this lawful asylum seeker and her family, they would be alive now. That’s all there is to it. It is our purposefully cruel and chaotic system that has killed them.

Torture: the ABA has a new report on trauma to children separated from their parents

Putting children in concentration camps, away from their parents, in harsh conditions has been described by medical inspectors as torture. The American Bar Association’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee has published (May 2019) on the harm caused to children when they are separated from their parents, the lifelong effects of toxic stress on children, and resources for children and parents facing removal.

2019 – Parent-Child Separation Trauma Memo-1

How much does it cost to incarcerate children?

We, through our tax dollars, are spending over $700 per night per child to hold immigrant children in concentration camps without their parents. $700+, and no toothbrush, no soap, no bed. You could stay at the Benson Hotel and order caviar and champagne for dinner for less than $700 per night. And you’d get soap and a bed, and probably a toothbrush if you asked at the desk.

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/trump-admin-s-tent-cities-cost-more-keeping-migrant-kids-n884871

No soap, cold temperatures, mylar blankets is “safe and sanitary” says the Administration

Under the Flores Agreement, reached several years ago, the federal government has agreed (among other things) to house detained migrant children in “safe and sanitary” conditions. Last week, the current Administration argued to the 9th Circuit that they were complying with this while keeping children in conditions without soap, toothpaste, clean clothes, beds or wholesome food. Instead, the children are crowded together, sleeping on concrete floors with mylar blankets, for weeks at a time. You can read about the conditions, and the lawsuit, here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html

The rest of this week, OWLS will be highlighting the detention of children, and what you can do to help.