Ain’t I a Mother

By Malena Amusa May 14, 2007

Women of Color Blogger posted this video in March after ugly immigration raids in New Bedford. She asked: Do women of color count as women? And mothers. Here’s a story worth resurfacing, of a mother, who because of dehumanizing immigration raids, may have found fewer reasons to celebrate Mother’s day this past Sunday. The Boston Globe reported in March:

Karin Fernandez had problems in Honduras. She was two months pregnant, and the baby’s father was gone. She had only a ninth-grade education and no work. But her aunt in New Bedford offered a solution: Come to Massachusetts. Have the baby here. Work in the leather goods factory where it’s easy to find a job. "I was in a really ugly crisis," said Fernandez, 19. In late 2005 she paid a smuggler $4,500 to bring her over the border. She made it to New Bedford and to the factory where the managers were said not to care if their employees’ documents were fake. She started at $7.50 an hour, no benefits, cutting material for special military backpacks. She followed the factory’s strict rules, including a ban on snacking at work stations. Working at Michael Bianco Inc. was tough, but she was grateful for the job. She couldn’t come close to making $300 a week in her homeland. Here she had money to feed her daughter, now 9 months old, and to send half her salary to her mother in Honduras. Then, on Tuesday morning, an announcement came over the intercom as Fernandez and several hundred other workers began their shift. Don’t run, the voice said. Immigration officers are in the building. She ran. Women leapt from their sewing and cutting stations and raced for the basement. Others fell to the floor where they shouted in pain as other people raced over them. Some whipped out their cellphones and whispered to their husbands that they were about to be caught. Fernandez and two men huddled for three hours in the frigid basement. She stifled coughs and sobs as the cold purpled her skin. Her twisted ankle throbbed. "We were almost frozen," she recalled yesterday. Around noon, immigration officers discovered her. She was one of 327 workers picked up at the factory that morning, unable to prove they were in the country legally. "I cried," she said. "I begged them to let me go because I have a daughter." She was held until 7 Tuesday night, then released to care for her child. By yesterday afternoon, 60 of the workers taken into custody at the factory Tuesday had been released on humanitarian grounds, for example, if they had children with nobody else to care for them. The 267 others remained at the former Fort Devens military base in Ayer, where they were questioned, fingerprinted, and processed to be sent to detention centers in Massachusetts and across the country to wait for deportation hearings.