Mothers Held for 17 Months in Immigrant Detention Center Ask Obama to Pardon Them

Editor’s Note: We received the following letter from Latino Rebels contributor Matthew Kolken.

Dear Mr. BARACK OBAMA, we are addressing you as a group of mothers who have been locked up for 17 months at BERKS COUNTY RESIDENTIAL CENTER in LEESPORT, PENNSYLVANIA.

We are 16 families who have come for refuge, protection and help to the United States of America, but we are in a situation where we do not know what is going to happen to us, especially in this new phase of government transition. So we ask you to take conscience and give us the opportunity to finally be free.

The only offense we committed was to enter without permission to the United States for the sole reason of protecting the lives of our children from the extreme violence that we live in our countries. We are in a desperate situation.

The federal court has granted us a stay while our lawyers request the Supreme Court to evaluate our case. Until this Court makes a final decision, we cannot be deported. While we expect the Supreme Court to give fair consideration to the fundamental rights of persons seeking refuge and asylum, we also urge you and your administration to consider the harm that this prolonged detention has caused us, the mothers and children who have lived detained for so long.

It is not fair to spend 2 Christmases with our children in prison. They are psychologically ill and need specialized medical attention. With our children detained for so long, we, their mothers, feel powerless because they cry and ask us “When will we leave this JAIL?” “When can we have a NORMAL life?”

All we ask for is an opportunity to present our asylum cases in order to stay in this country. We feel we can not return to our countries of origin. The conditions for women and children in our countries are getting worse every day, and because of this, every day we fear more for our lives and the lives of our children. Besides, we have families and legal advisers in this country ready to support us at every step of this process. We just ask for one opportunity.

In previous days, we have seen in the news that you pardoned a group of people with criminal records, and we want to emphasize that the only “illegal” thing we have done is to have crossed the Rio Bravo without permission (which we believe we have already paid for, given the long time we have been in detention), to ask for protection for our families.

The only thing we ask is that you pardon us, just as you did with these other people, you who still have the power to do so, and allow us to reunite with our families, who are waiting for us since 2015.

We expect a prompt response, thank you in advance.

Sincerely.

MADRES BERKS

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