order a poem to support Aleksandra’s release from immigration detention

dear brilliant ones,

as you may or may not know, my typewriter and i can be found in public places offering custom poems to go on the subject of the recipient’s choosing in exchange for a price (or other offering) of the recipient’s choosing. in the recent past, some of the most sparkling and profound exchanges i have experienced have been through this poeming.

i’m sharing this with you now because for the next month (from march 20th– April 20th), when you order a poem to go here (typewritten and mailed to you) all the dollars you contribute towards your custom poem will go directly into a bond fund for the release Aleksandra, a Russian journalist and poet who was placed in Eloy, a for-profit immigration detention center upon presenting herself at the U.S. border in search of asylum from the political persecution she faces in her home country.

this is my very brief appeal to you, dear human. (further details below, should you desire them). please consider ordering a poem (for you or someone else) whose words will work hard for your money towards freeing Aleksandra. and please consider re-posting (or Emailing) this announcement as far and wide as you can.

with so much glimmer and gratitude for standing side by side with me and Aleksandra and the rest of her support crew in honor of the light we are all made of,

franciszka
(because i want to believe so hard that poems can do things)

please note: if clicking on the tip jar on the poems to go page doesn’t work, just log in to paypal and make a payment to franciszkavoeltz@gmail.com

______________________________

I’m digging my escape
through piles of paper…
I must have gone insane to do such a thing!
But then I think–
the paper is the best gate
It make us really free.
– From “About Eloy” by Aleksandra

Aleksandra, a journalist and poet was forced to flee her home country (Russia) in order to escape political persecution. when she presented herself at the US border asking for asylum, rather than being provided with respite, she was taken to a for-profit immigration detention facility in Eloy, AZ, where she has been (and is still being) held against her will for over 8 months. until receiving the recent news of release on a $5,000 bond, she has endured with no sense of how many more days, weeks or months she would be held.

on the very day the bond is paid, Aleksandra will be released, but as it stands, she alone does not have the funds to secure her release. along with members of local (Arizona) and national immigrant rights communities, literary organizations and others who have connected with Aleksandra during her time in Eloy, Aleksandra is seeking support for her release. while these groups are organizing fundraising efforts in the Tucson area and beyond, i will be donating all money generated through poems to go to Aleksandra’s bond fund.

$5,000 is one of the lowest bonds that supporters of those in immigration detention have seen (often, bond is posted around $15,000-$20,000).

my personal link to Aleksandra is this: i spent the month of January in the mexico/arizona borderlands volunteering with no more deaths (an organization that leaves food and water in some of the deadliest crossing places of the mexico/Arizona border). in this time, i met so many shimmering people involved in various immigrant-rights projects in the Tucson area. some of whom travel regularly to visit those held in immigration detention centers surrounding Tucson. while i was hiking water out along arroyos and across cholla-covered expanses, other folks were meeting with those detained in the system – offering connection, support with legal cases, and advocating to get some of their most basic needs met and continuing to fight for their release. i came to learn over time about Aleksandra, a fellow poet, through one of the supporters that regularly meets with her.

Look and decide
Am I real or only a file?
– From “Single Filed” by Aleksandra

i’m including some information that might be helpful in understanding more about Aleksandra’s situation and U.S. immigration detention in general (and below that, you’ll find a longer excerpt of one of Aleksandra’s pieces):

were Aleksandra to have presented herself at the border before 1996, it’s more likely that her request for asylum would have been granted rather than met with being placed at Eloy. here’s why: In 1996, the U.S. enacted legislation (the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act) that drastically expanded the category of people subject to mandatory detention. (Mandatory detention is the practice of imprisoning an individual without any consideration of whether incarceration is necessary or appropriate.)

These and other current U.S. immigration policies require whole categories of non-U.S. citizens, including legal permanent residents, to be imprisoned without any individual assessment of their risk to public safety or flight or of their vulnerability in detention while the government tries to prove that it has the authority to deport them. As it stands currently, ICE (u.s. immigrations and customs enforcement) detains non-citizens who are awaiting decisions in their removal cases –including asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their home countries.

More than half of all immigrants imprisoned by immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) for immigration violations have not been convicted of a crime, not even for illegal entry or low-level crimes like trespassing. More than 400 of those with no criminal record had been incarcerated for at least a year. A dozen had been held for three years or more; one man from China had been locked up for more than five years.

Despite the explosive growth in immigration detention in recent years, there are no regulations or enforceable standards regarding detention conditions, including medical treatment, mental health care, religious services, transfers, and access to telephones, free legal services, and library materials. In fact, the vast majority of detainees never receive legal representation, which makes it more difficult not only to succeed in adversarial immigration proceedings, but also to complain about substandard treatment. – the American civil liberties union

Currently, 69% of people held in immigration detention centers are in private for-profit prisons. Click links to watch Immigrants for sale, an informative video about that explains a bit more about the monstrosity of for-profit immigration detention centers in the U.S.
short version
full length

Eloy, in particular, is nortorious for its horrible conditions and abuse inflicted upon those inside by the guards employed there. in June of 2015, over 200 of those detained at Eloy staged a hunger strike in response – below is a photo of the hunger strikers signaling supporters who stood outside the center to gather in solidarity with the strikers.

Screen shot 2016-03-19 at 9.10.30 PM

Screen shot 2016-03-19 at 9.24.15 PM

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement currently detains people in over 250 county jails and for-profit prisons at a daily capacity of over 34,000 beds.

Other resources:

article from 2009 (not recent, but still relevant) about immigrants facing long detention times with limited rights

detention watch network provides articles on various immigration detention issues from family detention (children being detained with their parents) to detention quotas

no more deaths fact sheets and suggested readings

______________________________

below, excerpt from “Everything and Nothing”
By Aleksandra
Written in the Eloy Detention Center
March 2016

And I see it now. In my brand-new scheduled life. Life is full of rules and prescriptions.

Reduced to manual. I’m not a human anymore, merely a graph of income, a method of economy. A beast of burden, uniformed. I lose the advantage of classical education, my all-time secret dignity. I go to work as a garbage collector. I lose my individuality—I am one of thousands under this merciless, deceitful sun. Like a shooting star, I rush down, my rights burned by the atmosphere. Freedom of speech, freedom to choose my day’s activities, to wake up and go to bed when I want. To hide in shadows from sunshine. To cover myself by a blanket inside this icy cell. Dance and sing, express joy or sadness, or the thoughts about suicide: I don’t have a right to die here.

The only thing they’ll do for you after spotting your grief—put you in a hole. Isolate you from others as if your mind has some catching disease.

Imagine that you are in emptiness.
In a room with soaped windows. Light’s always on.
There is a camera in the corner—somebody is watching you.
Constantly watching. Forget about privacy.
It has been a luxury before, it is impossible now.
You don’t have a writing pad, a book, a radio.
Just a metal bed and silence.

You cannot protest: drink chemicals, hang yourself, starve yourself, swallow a toothbrush, jump from the second tier.
The last, the ultimate freedom of desperate ones, has been taken away from you.
You are in a tin box—inside a concrete box—in a fenced yard—in the middle of the desert.
No home. No friends. No lawyer. No sponsors.
No perspectives for your case.
No crime to justify and limit the time of waiting.
Your children haven’t heard from you in months.
Your parents excluded you from the family.
Your beloved somewhere far away, in the other state—no way to get any news from there.

I am alone in this emptiness. I have nobody to speak to, except a grumpy officer, but she’s not talkative. Not really. I am a problem for her, in need to be solved. I cannot sneak a letter or scratch a graffiti on the featureless wall.

The silence falls.

Screen shot 2016-04-20 at 11.08.07 AM
image from saatchiart.com

 

 

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