In front of the Karnes City detention center

In front of the Karnes City detention center

I am going to be straight up: I am sick and tired of this bullshit.

Over the last handful days, the authorities in Texas have granted a child care license to the Karnes City family detention center, where I have been working the last couple months.

Words matter

There are so many problems with the immigration detention system here in the United States, and it all starts with calling these places what they actually are: prisons.

Does it make sense if a prison applies for a child care license? Of course not—but that is exactly what happened here in Texas this week. 

The whole point of obtaining the child care license is to work around the ruling of a federal judge in California who ordered the rapid release of all migrant children and their parents. It also rules that minors could not be held in secure facilities not licensed specifically for child care.

Well, isn't this licensure convenient for the for-profit detention/prison system complex. 

Does your child care center do this?

Upon initial inspection of Karnes, there were "deficiencies" that still made it through approval anyway, including lack of properly documenting childrens' medical conditions. There has also been a history of sexual abuse allegations among other things, targeting an already vulnerable population.

In every possible way, the detention center resembles a prison, and Texas granting it a child care license solidifies the intention of these once "temporary" detention centers becoming even more systematized and ingrained into our country's for-profit prison system.

It's all so effing sneaky:

  • Put "family" detention center in the middle of nowhere—e.g. highly rural Texas (and even though it's called "family" detention—only women and children stay here while fathers are sent elsewhere).
  • Confuse the mass public by calling these places "detention centers" in the first place—which masks its true nature of being a for-profit prison. 
  • But the entirety of the detainee population at Karnes City is seeking asylum because of gang violence and highly dangerous conditions in their own country—with no criminal record. So, why are they being treated this way?
  • The "child care license" in a place that is actually a JAIL. Let's all take a moment and pause about the total absurdity of this concept. 
  • The list goes on...

When we live in silos

As described above, the assumed success of this system is dependent upon a silence or acquiescence from the public. It is also dependent upon the concept of people living and remaining in their individual silos.

South Texas may seem another world away, especially for folks who don't live in Texas, or the Southwest, or anywhere near the US/Mexico border. And the for-profit prison system is counting on people not paying attention or not being able to relate to the situation.

But all of us have kids in our lives. That is where the child care license intersects these vertical silos and brings a shudder of relatability for all of us. Can we imagine the children in our lives living in a prison (detention center with a "child care license")? 

From working at Karnes City over the last couple months, I can tell you that this place psychologically and emotionally impacts these children. Sometimes, the inconsolable crying and wailing in the visitation room is difficult to withstand. You wish you could just shut down this place.

And that's what we need to do

In the meantime

I recently read an article that really stuck with me. It was saying that sometimes you can feel frustrated because we often want to "build Rome overnight." (And if there was ever a need to build it overnight, here you go...). 

But, if you look at each interaction and each day as a single brick towards building that structure—one day it will be complete. I have been thinking about that concept a lot on days when I feel so frustrated at the system. Just one brick at a time. (Would be convenient if on occasion, you could throw those bricks, too. Just saying.)

So, I take a small slice of comfort in knowing that I can share these frustrations with you all in my community, and we can continue to lay those bricks down one at a time (albeit hopefully at a much needed quicker pace!). 

I'm curious: have the stories of immigration detention made its way to your community? Sending much love to you all from South Texas.

These stories help keep me afloat: Sister Cathy also lives at the convent I've been staying at here in San Antonio. She and I both grew up in Lowell, MA & even went to the same high school (NDA alum!). Tonight, we had margaritas (Sister C can hang) and talked about our childhood neighborhoods, life these days in Texas, & progressive politics. Even when on the road, I'm amazed at how some of those roads lead back home. And home is a lot of places these days. I can't wait for the next connection.

These stories help keep me afloat: Sister Cathy also lives at the convent I've been staying at here in San Antonio. She and I both grew up in Lowell, MA & even went to the same high school (NDA alum!). Tonight, we had margaritas (Sister C can hang) and talked about our childhood neighborhoods, life these days in Texas, & progressive politics. Even when on the road, I'm amazed at how some of those roads lead back home. And home is a lot of places these days. I can't wait for the next connection.