Our two most recent guests at Casa Alterna at the Atlanta Friends Meeting were mothers just released from immigration detention. Their visits reminded me of 2 things: first, motherhood is an example of grace and love; second, we still have too many unjust systems that treat mothers with cruelty.
The first mother we hosted was from Brazil, a country where police there just committed one of the worst atrocities against civilians in that country’s history. Because of the way asylum-seeking works, this mother and her partner had no choice but to leave their children in the care of other relatives in hopes that, if asylum is granted in the United States, they could someday be reunited with their children. After traversing many countries from South to North America, what they did not anticipate was that seeking asylum would lead to their prolonged detention and an imposed separation from one another; the mother in Georgia and her partner in California.
Upon the mother’s release from detention, she was filled with fear and anxiety. From the grief of leaving her children behind, the hardships of migration, the forced separation from her beloved, criminalized detention, to now receiving hospitality from strangers – who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by a whirlwind of emotions? Through small acts of love and lots of reliance on a translation app, we offered what little consolation we could during this pit-stop towards defiant hope.
The second mother we welcomed into Casa Alterna this week has lived in the United States for over twenty years. During her time in this country, life has often been hard. She’s worked menial jobs for low wages, her partner betrayed and left her, a son of hers was deported, and she is a sex trafficking survivor. Nevertheless, this single mother continues to strive onward in search of a better life for her and her U.S. citizen children, including a special needs child.
As soon as we received confirmation that this mother had been released, I contacted one of her daughters who speaks American English with a hint of Southern accent. The daughter was ecstatic that her mom had been freed from ICE’s grip and relieved that she could have a safe place to stay until the family could make arrangements to bring her home the next day.
The next morning the family arrived. It was a seven-hour drive. The children didn’t all pack into one vehicle. No, to welcome their mother home they loaded two vehicles with children, grandchildren and other extended family. This mother is loved and was missed and they wanted to make sure she knew it.
This is Mother’s Day. Mothering is hard work, but it’s also a gift of grace and love. Let’s celebrate those who mother us and work to end systems that are ungracious and unloving towards moms everywhere.