The Light Keepers
Lyric Montgomery Kinard 2019
50″ x 30″
Cotton cloth, Acrylic paint, Thread
Carolina Nuñez is a Venezuelan immigrant and a law professor at Brigham Young University. In 2018 she traveled to the immigration detention center in Dilley Texas and spent time working with the asylum seekers there, listening to their stories and helping them prepare for credible fear interviews. The burdens of rape, murder, and violence, were carried by these migrants along with their children on walking journeys none of us can imagine. The hopeless situations they had escaped, only to be incarcerated and treated as animals once they made it to the “Land of the Free” have inspired a flood of attorneys and other volunteers to give freely of their time, trying their best to aid these suffering men, women and children.
Because of a cruel policy restricting numbers of applicants at legal entry points, thousands of migrants have felt they had no choice but to try a desert crossing, and they have died. Children have been brutally ripped from the arms of their loved ones and kept in unspeakable conditions in privately run detention centers. The press is not allowed in. Lawyers have been some of the only witnesses to the atrocious treatment these vulnerable people have suffered. Thank you to attorneys Martin Garbus, Kyle Knapp, Carolina Nuñez, Emily Strongwater and Warren Binford, and volunteer Catherine Powers for sharing the stories and humanizing these desperate people.
The experiences in the detention centers, the conditions, the stories of immigrants seeking shelter, were written by the Light Keepers for public record. I recorded each of them by hand on white cloth, printed over them with drawings of children and women and the chain link fencing that separates our desperate brothers and sisters from safety and opportunity.
Red thread was then hand stitched to join each story. The red of the blood of those who have not survived the journey. The red of the blood of those who have been murdered when they were deported back to the nightmare they tried to escape. The red of the blood of the children who have perished in our detention centers. The red of the blood on the hands of our government and all of us who look the other way. These are hard truths we must all face. If we are complacent, we are complicit.
Words from the poem, The New Colossus, inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, were painted as an overlay on the image of Dr. Nuñez.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
You can help. www.raicestexas.org is an organization that funds the work immigration lawyers are doing in detention centers in Texas. You can donate to help them help more asylum seekers.
https://www.reunify.org/donate.html, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law organizes lawyers and interpreters to help asylum seekers in the detention centers.
Border Angels does well vetted work with issues directly on the border.
You can also pressure your federal officials to fix our broken immigration system in a compassionate and equitable way. Please make this a central issue of your choices in the next election.
YOU have a voice. Please use it in behalf of those who have none.