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New Video Interview of a Mom from the New Bedford Raids

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Do you remember a month or so ago when I wrote about the raid of the factory in New Bedford and the illegal immigrants that were arrested and shipped off to Texas to await hearings, many being forced to leave young children behind without having any idea who was going to care for them?

There's a new clip that's been released to YouTube by the New Bedford Relief that you need to take ten minutes out of your life to watch. (Hat tip to Vox at the Women of Color Blog.)

The clip features a compelling interview of one of the women that was arrested during the raid and parts of it will just turn your stomach.

The woman talks about the raid and all of them being swept up and carted off. She explains that she told them that she had a six year old daughter with health problems and no one to watch her. She was told that she'd be given the chance to talk to a lawyer, but when the lawyers came, she wasn't allowed to see them. In fact, as she asked repeatedly, the people watching her became more and more agitated and yelled at her that if she REALLY had a need to see a lawyer, she already would have seen one.

While she did eventually get to speak with someone (though it never notes what ended up happening) it's some of the other parts of the story, specifically the treatment of the breastfeeding moms that's going to get your tail in a knot.

Here's a quote from the clip...

The truth is, they did treat us badly...because some of the women who had young children, who breastfed, I saw because I was near them, they even made them take the milk from their breasts to see if it was true that they had young children. They had almost all of them take milk from their breasts. They even made fun of them. They said - one of them told another to pass an oreo cookie to eat with milk, that they were milking the cows. We were in the next room listening, and the women were crying.

Did you catch that?

The moms that claimed to be nursing mothers had to express milk to prove it.

In front of the workers.

While being made fun of. (And not your garden variety, oh, milk is funny, I'm a jerk, but degrading, humiliating treatment.)

Besides, does a test like this mean that moms of young children or babies that don't breastfeed don't get to be reunited with them? So what if you don't have milk, that doesn't mean you don't have a baby and that that baby doesn't have every bit as much of a right to be with it's mother as the breastfed one does.

So having watched the full video, here are my reactions. (And you'll note that in my first post on the subject I said I was going to stay out of the politics on it, but having now seen this I really do feel a need to delve a little deeper.)

First, let me expand a little on my own thoughts on immigration. (To note, yes, I am a registered Republican, though I lean more toward being a Libertarian...but this is an issue where my views differ from my political party.)

I think our national policies suck. In fact, I think they are abhorrent. I think that the government has put in place a system of travesty that says one thing while doing another. The government says that they need to tighten the borders, control immigration levels and keep all these illegal immigrants out of the country. That's fine and dandy, if they were actually DOING it, but instead, little is done to stop the flow of people into this country. Why?

Because both the government and businesses benefit from these resources. Businesses get cheap labor and the government gets low-priced goods and more tax dollars. (Don't kid yourself, a LOT of illegal immigrants pay taxes, they just don't/can't file for returns.)

If I were in control? We'd have an absolute border lock-down until we got things under control and got a system in place that would integrate these people (and future immigrants) into society. Get them in the system, get them paying taxes and let the country grow. Immigration is what made this country what it is. The attitude of "well, we've got all the folks we need/want, you can't come in" just ticks me off.

(And I was astounded during my trip to Ellis Island last month to see that the political cartoons and editorials of the 30's and 40's when there was a movement to halt immigration could be printed today without any editing at all. It's the exact same argument and the exact same sentiment. Only the skin color and country of origin are different.)

Anyway, there are lots of other details on how I would want to see things change to account for issues like taxing the public aid system, health care, etc... but this is not a political blog, so let's just leave it at "I firmly believe that we should have Fort Knox borders with a system that allows for easy, legal entry."

So with all of that said, what's my reaction to this piece?

I find it appalling. Absolutely appalling.

Now let's be clear, I don't have a problem with people that are currently here illegally being "rounded up" (I hate that phrase) and deported back to their own country. We DO have laws in place and even if we don't like them, we have to work with them while changing them. (Just like how you can't be arrested for nursing in public but in most states you can be arrested for trespassing if they ask you to leave and you refuse.)

But even if you are going to arrest and deport these immigrants there is not a single excuse in the entire WORLD to treat them so poorly.

I was talking to my husband about it this morning and he pointed out that as illegal immigrants, they have no legal recourse when their rights are violated. Thus, those who seek power and control over others have "free reign" to get their jollies.

He's right. It takes a VERY small person to decide that a human being does not deserve respect.

Yes, these people are breaking the law and yes, there are consequences for that (until policy changes) but these are not criminals that have hurt anyone. They're not rapists, murderers or even thieves. They're people trying to better their life and hoping that they can blend in without being noticed.

They're mothers and and sisters and daughters and their primary goal is to provide for their family.

It's a shame that in this country, that's a crime.

After all, how many of us would be here if Ms. Liberty's sign read "Give us your western European, highly educated, motivated masses..." instead of "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free..."

I wouldn't. Granted, my family has been here since the late 1700s, but they came over on ships hoping for a new life in a new land that offered opportunity to those who were willing to work.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 'Cept there was no "border patrol" when my family arrived.

So to reiterate, I have no problem with these women being detained and extradited...but ONLY if their children are kept with them. There's also ZERO excuse for them being treated this way. It's further proof that our government needs to be massively overhauled. That people in power (I'm not talking about Democrats or Republicans, quite frankly, I think they're all rotten) need to be tossed out on their rears and new people brought in.

That's a lot to take in...what do we do with it?

Well, I don't know about you, but I say we react. I say that we make sure that this video gets out and that people hear about how these people were treated. Abu Ghraib made national news because we were treating terrorists (and suspected terrorists) abhorrently.

This time the receiving end's only crime is wanting to live in a country that doesn't want them. Illegal? Yes. Is that an excuse for their treatment? NO!

Write your senators, your congressmen...write to Ellen, Oprah, the Today Show, Fox News, ABC News, 20/20, Glenn Beck, NPR, Good Morning America, John Stossle, anyone you can think of. Forward this video to your friends, put it on your blog, send it as a MySpace Bulletin.

Spread the word.

It doesn't matter if you believe in amnesty for all illegal aliens or if you think they should all be shipped home, it only matters that no human should be treated this way and that no child should be forcibly separated from their mother simply because a government official won't wait a stinkin' day or two to figure out the situation.

I'll be sending this out on the lactivist email lists that I belong to and will be spreading the word on message boards and a few other places.

Watch the full video for yourself.

Make sure that you watch all the way to the end. Note that they'd taken all of their belongings (leaving them with no way to buy phone cards to contact family and even let them know where they were) and then asked if any of the women would like to work to earn some money while they were being detained.

Seven of them raised their hands and then spent two hours scrubbing, mopping, washing windows and cleaning the bathroom. They were paid a dollar.

A dollar. For two hours work.

Nothing like adding insult to injury, eh?

If we get enough views of this video on YouTube, it will push it to the front page and it will stand a much better chance of garnering some national media attention. So send it to breastfeeding groups, but also send it to mothering groups, parenting groups, political groups...anyone that agrees that humans have basic human right that should be respected.


  1. Anonymous Jennifer | 7:21 AM |  

    Wow. Illegal immigrants or not, NOBODY deserves to be treated that way!

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:45 AM |  

    that is so disgusting...how horrific...thank you for sharing this video...

    makes we want to go become an immigration attorney

  3. Blogger Norma | 9:21 AM |  

    I am horrified.
    I urge everyone to spread the word about these outrages. I will be linking this article to my blog:

  4. Blogger Sarahbear | 9:25 AM |  

    It is so sad that this happened. I can not believe there are so many corrupt legal officials in this country who think that it's okay to abuse their power the way that they do.

  5. Anonymous Nev | 10:05 AM |  

    This is abhorrent.

    Let me give a little background on myself...the father of my son is originally from Mexico. While I'm fuzzy on the exact details, it's my understanding that he, his mom, and his brothers were at one point illegals. (Now, he has his citizenship, and they all have permanent residency.)

    While I have a real problem with illegals--our laws do need to be respected--I also understand that many are either lied to or feel they have no choice. I believe human nature will continue to push people across the border, they are a vital part of the system, and as such we should streamline the system and get every one of them legally documented. It benefits both sides.

    Ok. Touchy subject for me. :) Politics aside...

    Absolutely no one should be treated this way! Unfortunately, it happens a lot with the illegal community. They are afraid of trying to get pretty much any type of help, for fear of being deported. (You see this with domestic abuse victims and workplace abuses especially.)

    "Prove" you're lactating? That's just sick and twisted.

  6. Anonymous Vox | 10:26 AM |  

    Thanks for posting about this. However, it was bfp who posted the video and deserves the hat tip — Women of Color Blog is her site. :-)

  7. Blogger Jennifer | 10:29 AM |  

    To note, I've posted this at BabyCenter, on Mothering, sent it to the lactivism and LACTnet email lists, submitted it to Glenn Beck and passed it along to a producer I know at NPR.

    Will be sending it out to more outlets as I have time, but things are tight with all the training I'm doing this week.

    If you take the time to post it to a blog, a discussion forum or to send it to a media outlet, please make a note of it here. (And just because one person sends it doesn't mean a million other people shouldn't as well...so if you email people, include the info here so that others can bombard them as well.

    To note, if anyone else wants to encourage Glenn Beck to cover it, his email is me@glennbeck.com

  8. Blogger Jennifer | 10:31 AM |  


    Thanks for the clarification. I assume that the readers at the WOC blog are also contacting media? I've asked my readers to help us keep tab here of who gets contacted (and to share contact info so that we can all bombard them...easy to ignore one email, hard to ignore thousands.)

    I really do think that needs to get some exposure. If it's true and the claims can be substantiated, then I think some goverment officials have a lot of explaining to do.

  9. Blogger Sarahbear | 10:59 AM |  

    Here's another video that shows an 8 month old little girl at the emergency room with a 104 degree temperature. She's a breastfed child and they show either the nurse or interpreter trying to give the child a bottle.

    It's got a few other interviews on it that describe other people's personal accounts of what's going on as well.


  10. Anonymous sio | 11:43 AM |  

    We treat all immigrants, legal and illegal poorly.

    My husband recently became a citizen, after several years of being here legally, first on an H1B and then on a green card. While obviously, he never had to endure such horrible treatment as these poor women, the treatment he did receive as a LEGAL IMMIGRANT (a highly educated one from Western Europe in a technical position) was incompetent and disrespectful.

    There is an attitude that since immigrants aren't citizens, and therefore don't vote, they are not deserving of respect and decent treatment by our government. If they are illegal, they don't deserve even basic rights.

    It is just fundamentally wrong. Period.

  11. Blogger Eilat | 12:42 PM |  

    Sadly, this is what happens when people are put in a position of power with no proper training on how to execute that power humanely. Its a classic example of the well cited "Stanford prison experiment" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment).

    Briefly, in 1971 a psychology experiment at Stanford university hired volunteers to simulate conditions of the prisoner/jailer dynamic. At the outset they were randomly assigned their roles and were basically indistinguishable groups. Shortly after the experiment got under way, the "guards" became sadistic and cruel, humiliating and abusing the "prisoners". The experiment had to be cut short.

    This was brought up in the media when Abu Gharaib came to light. And I think it is an appropriate model here. There is something about human nature when power is combined with herd mentality that awful mind-boggling things happen.

    It has also been shown that proper training of people in positions of power with real consequences for violating protocol is very effective at preventing these outcomes. If the guards at Abu Gharaib had been trained in Geneva convention rules and taught what to do and not to do, then maybe that would not have happened.

    Similarly, these officers behaved no differently, humiliating, abusing, dehumanizing these immigrants. They were in an unchecked position of power. The government MUST adopt strict training and protocol on how to perform these "raids" and there should be serious consequences to those that violate those guidelines.

    Right now, I'm ashamed of my country.

  12. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:27 PM |  

    remember this woman when you are buying all the stuff from discount chain stores.. because it was made by women and children who suffer the same humiliation day in and day out.

    The stuff is cheap for a reason.

    What happened to the people that ran this factory? The stores that by from the factory? The consumers that buy the goods?

    Closing our borders is not going to break this chain. If we want stuff like this to stop. WE have to stop our consumption.

  13. Blogger Heather | 2:28 PM |  

    Sarahbear -

    I just sobbed when I saw that video. The only thing I could think was "she doesn't want a damn bottle, she wants her mama!"

    I had to pick up my baby and hug her.

    I'm disgusted. Just... disgusted. Some "superior country" we are.

  14. Blogger Jennifer | 2:37 PM |  

    If you missed it, the factory made backpacks for the government. I assume for military use.

    Anyone else find it ironic that the government shut down their own cheap source of labor?

  15. Anonymous Dave Gould | 4:01 PM |  

    The pro illegal immigrant crowd fabricated most of those "heart wrenching" stories. Anyone who had a kid was never carted of to Texas unless they wanted to or had prior convictions. If the parent had to go, then the kid went too. The children you see are just plants for the media. Don't be fooled with your heart. Since your moserated, I doubt this bit of reason will even make it through. Too bad.

  16. Blogger Jennifer | 6:28 PM |  

    I'm going to assume moserated was a typo for moderated, as I've never heard the word "moserated" before. ;)

    Anyway, why wouldn't I let your comment through? Geeze, are that many people out there running blogs and refusing to run any opposing view points?

    I digress...

    What makes you 100% certain that the videos are fabricated? Were you part of the team that took them in?

    Do you really find it so hard to believe that some humans are capable of treating other humans so poorly?

    I'd like to see the claims of the video substantiated, but quite frankly, I'm more apt to believe it based on things I've seen happen in the past.

  17. Anonymous Rachel | 7:53 PM |  

    "In case you missed it, the factory made backpacks for the government."

    Nice to see OUR tax dollars at work. So Sad.

  18. Anonymous Liz | 11:54 PM |  

    There are two things I find a bit odd about this story:
    First, it seems unlikely that women at a garment factory were exclusively breastfeeding these children, because I find it unlikely that, even if the state has a "mother's room" law, uneducatd women working under false papers would have spoken up to ask for it.
    Second, if one is working illegally and knows that at any time there could be a raid, aren't you being irresponsible yourself if you haven't made back-up plans along the lines of having an adult check on the situation at work if you haven't come home as scheduled? If these women were leaving their children at home alone, they should be in foster care anyway.

  19. Blogger Jennifer | 5:02 AM |  

    Liz, to clarify, these women were working a night shift, something common among nursing moms. Many breastfed babies sleep through the night (Elnora slept through the night at 7 weeks and kept doing so until 7 months, by then, she wouldn't have needed to nurse to settle back down.)

    Thus, while some babies couldn't be left overnight (Emmitt's still up three times a night to eat) many could.

    Oh and the overnight thing also explains the child care. In these situations, the children are usually left with friends or family or neighbors who simply sleep in the same house or apartment and are there on the off-chance that the child wakes up and needs something.

    It's certainly not the best situation and if you read my post, you'll see that I don't have a problem with the women being deported under our current laws, but it's hardly child endangerment.

  20. Anonymous SL | 7:46 AM |  

    I live in Southwestern Arizona where the immigration debate is EXTREMELY hot. I would love to agree with the poster who thinks that these videos are fabricated, but have seen so much hatred about this subject, that I'm sad to say I'm inclined to believe it's true.

    As far as the responsible vs irresponsible child care debate goes, illegal immigrants often share housing with legal immigrants, often several families per home. There is always someone available to care for the children. It is very likely that the women engage in cross nursing, as these are women from a country where nursing is common, and cross nursing wouldn't be considered icky. It is only after they've been here legally or begin to recieve services that the breastfeeding rates plummet due to American cultural beliefs. Just because there is someone available to care for the children does not mean the children should be away from their mothers.

  21. Anonymous Steph | 8:02 AM |  


    I'd like to point out too, that just because people are illegal immigrants, doesn't mean that they are uneducated. It means they need to find work to support their families, and that could be for number of reasons. Most (not all) speak at least some english - that's one more language than most americans speak.

  22. Blogger Eilat | 8:13 AM |  

    "First, it seems unlikely that women at a garment factory were exclusively breastfeeding these children"

    I have a pediatrician/LC in the family who is a breastfeeding advocate. She mentioned to me a while ago, while discussing bf-ing rates among different groups of people, that Mexican women usually breastfeed exclusively and go on to bf for a long time. Its part of the culture. So, Im not sure that they were Mexican (did I miss that paert?), but I think its a safe assumption. It makes sense that some of the women with infants would be bf-ing exclusively. Im sure they cant afford formula and they are not eligible for welfare.

  23. Blogger A Soldier's Girl | 9:10 AM |  

    I've posted on my LJ.


  24. Anonymous Vox | 12:52 AM |  

    Jennifer - I'm sure that bfp has been organizing to help these women. She's been writing about it since the raid happened, and has posted a ton of information. I've written as well, as have others.

    The biggest supporter for the New Bedford women is the MIRA Coalition; they have more information as well as who to contact.


  25. Blogger Jennifer | 2:09 AM |  

    Thanks Vox! I've got a lawyer friend that's big in the lactivist world and used to work in immigration. She was asking if I could provide contact info so that she could see what she might be able to help out with.

    I'll pass this along. (Unless she's already read it here...)

  26. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:59 PM |  

    I am personally outraged at the treatment these people received. Illegal immigrant or not, no one deserves to be treated in such a shameful and inhumane manner. I intend to share this video with as many people as possible.

    One other thing...my wife is a legal immigrant, also from Central America. She watched this video from beginning to end, and from the mannerisms, etc. she is 100% convinced this poor woman's story is truthful and not embellished.

  27. Blogger Bob | 10:09 AM |  

    More testimony about the New Bedford immigration raid. Here, a clinical psychologist testified about the trauma caused to the families of the detainees, especially the children. He confirmed women detainees were forced to produce milk as ICE agents watched.
    "In my twenty years of professional practice, I have never faced a more challenging or disheartening situation than providing volunteer mental health services to the victums of the violent raid that took place at the Michael Bianco factory in New Bedford..."

  28. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:29 PM |  

    Our constitution says "all persons," not "all citizens," or "all weathly white men." So yeah, they do have rights, all of the rights guaranteed to us by our constitution, and they have them as long as they are on US soil (and that includes territories, bases, embassies, and g-mo).

  29. Blogger Shellie | 10:24 PM |  

    AMEN AMEN!!!!!! Finally some common sense and decency is being promoted somewhere out there. I totally and completely agree with every word you said, sister! I haven't even watched the video yet but I will and Will pass it on!

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