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To the Obamas

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In August, 2014 I spent a week in Artesia, New Mexico working on asylum cases for women and children imprisoned there by our government.  Sadly, hundreds are still imprisoned there and the U.S. Government is building even more family prisons.  These are my letters to the President and First Lady, mailed in September.


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20500-0001


Dear Mr. President,

I have been a supporter of your presidency since the beginning.  My husband and I took our then-infant daughter to celebrate in Millennium Park in Chicago on Election Day in 2008, and I remember it as one of the happiest events I have ever been at in my life.  I have had an Obama bobblehead in my office for years.

No more. The president I supported ran on a platform of Hope.  He chanted "yes we can!" and "Sí, se puede!"  That president is gone.

I have spent the past weeks working with women, children, and infants that you have imprisoned, Mr. President, in what I can only see as a heartless campaign to take away all hope from some of the most desperate and vulnerable people on earth.  The families you have locked up in New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania are fleeing violence worse that the worst blocks of the worst neighborhoods of Chicago.  Many of the women and girls are victims of rape and abuse.  Yet you have decided to treat them as unworthy of a fair chance at safety, and instead to force them to endure the indignities of captivity while rushing them through window-dressing proceedings designed not for justice but to "ensure more timely and effective removals ," as explained in the most recent press release from ICE about building more family jails.

Women who have suffered great trauma are denied the privacy needed to discuss difficult private matters.  Children are denied schooling, toys, appropriate food and medicine.  Families are denied reasonable communication with attorneys, family, and the outside world.  United States citizens are denied the right to care for their family members who are in such great need.  All of this can only be a plan to deny all hope to frightened, battered, families fleeing violence and exploitation so that they give up in despair and return to the dangers they fled.

When did you decide, Mr. President, that the best use of the vast resources of the wealthiest nation on earth was to build more prisons for children?  Is this what you want your legacy to be?  I am ashamed.  Really, truly ashamed.

With deepest regrets,

Mary K. Neal


First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20500-0002


Dear Ms. Obama,

I have been a supporter of your husband since the beginning.  My husband and I took our then-infant daughter to celebrate in Millennium Park in Chicago on Election Day in 2008, and I remember it as one of the happiest events I have ever been at in my life.  I have had an Obama bobblehead in my office for years.

I have also lauded your efforts at improving child fitness and nutrition.  As a mother of two children in Chicago Public Schools, I am happy to report that our school now provides healthy vegetarian lunch options every day of the week, and recess every day.

However, I recently spent time with a large group of children in very different circumstances.  These were the hundreds of children that your husband's government has imprisoned in Artesia, New Mexico.  The children there had no playground, no school, limited food options which many of the youngest would not eat.  Every mother reported that the young children would not eat the meals provided because they were either ill-prepared (undercooked) or the food was too unfamiliar.  The children wanted more fruit, milk, and juice.  Some mothers took to breast feeding their toddlers all day, even in court in front of the video-conferenced male immigration judges, because the young ones were losing weight.

These families are fleeing violence worse that the worst blocks of the worst neighborhoods of Chicago.  Many of the women and girls are victims of rape and abuse.  Yet they are being treated as unworthy of a fair chance at safety, and instead to force them to endure the indignities of captivity while rushing them through window-dressing proceedings designed not for justice but to "ensure more timely and effective removals," as explained in the most recent press release from ICE about building more family jails.

These children and their families deserve better.  Many have family members living legally in the United States who could house and feed them, and send them to schools.  They should be allowed to go to these relatives and await their cases in freedom where the children can be healthy and learn, eat, and play with their peers.

Sincerely,

Mary K. Neal


 

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