“Familias Separadas” project, created and led by artist Michelle Angela Ortiz, is a series of temporary site-specific public art works that will mark locations and document stories of immigrant families affected by deportations in the city of Philadelphia. The main goal of the project is to shift the focus on the statistics/ numbers of deportations and see the father, mother, brother that has been torn apart from their families.
Site 4: Familias Separadas/ Somos Seres Humanos (We Are Human Beings)
Location: ICE Building, 1600 Callowhill Streets, Philadelphia
"WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS, RISKING OUR LIVES, FOR OUR FAMILIES & OUR FUTURE"
These words come from an undocumented immigrant mother, Ana, fighting with her daughter their deportation. After spending almost a year in Berks Detention Center, Ana and her daughter were deported back to their native country of Guatemala. A judge in Philadelphia recently declared her deportation unjust and ordered that they be brought back to the United States.
"The Berks County Detention Center is a county run prison located twenty minutes outside of Pennsylvania which currently incarcerates immigrant families, with children as young as two weeks old being detained. Families inside the prison have stated a laundry list of abuses such as verbal abuse, medical neglect, labor law violations and sexual assault. The continued operation of Berks violates both Federal and State law and organizations like Juntos is currently fighting for the state to remove the license, thus forcing the prison to close." says Juntos. This is a great accomplishment, but the greater accomplishment will be when the people detained in that building are reunited with their families.
TAKE ACTION, HELP SHUT DOWN BERKS DETENTION CENTER HERE.
Site 3- Familias Separadas/ Se Siente el Miedo Location- 9th and Washington Avenue, Philadelphia
Despite making up only 75% of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Latinos represent 97% of immigrants deported. This criminalization of Latinos has created a deportation machine that profits off the detention and deportation of the immigrant community.
Cruz rides his bicycle to work everyday through Washington Avenue. Due to the financial needs of his family, he left his home in Mexico at age 14 to be on his own and start working. He has worked hard through 20 plus years in the United States. While working one day, he was detained by ICE, completed his 4 month probation, and had to report himself for one full year to their offices.
His portrait lays on Washington Avenue along the pathway of the 9th Street Market, a home to immigrant families for over 100 years. He speaks about how this city was a symbol of freedom and now it feels more like a prison.
photo credit: Steve Weinik/ Mural Arts Program/ OPEN SOURCE
Site 2: Familias Separadas/ Te Amo (I Love You) Location: Love Park, 15th Street and JFK Blvd, Philadelphia
The artwork depicts the image of a gold necklace that says "Te Amo" (I Love You) that belongs to Suyapa.
Suyapa proudly wears this gold necklace on her chest. It is a memory of her oldest daughter that she carries with her. Suyapa left Honduras fleeing violence, she left her sons behind and crossed the border with her two youngest daughters, was detained in Texas, and is now fighting deportation proceedings in Philadelphia. Suyapa speaks about love and what happens to love when you leave or are forced to leave.
Suyapa: When you leave and you leave your children, they change, but you do not change. There are people that try to fill their heads and tell them that your mother left because she doesn’t love you, your mother left because she doesn’t care for you, and so many things…
I tell him, my son, you know very well why I had to leave you…
If all of this wouldn’t of happened, I wouldn’t be here, I tell him as poor as I am, I raised you, we struggled together. I couldn’t leave you abandoned because I wanted to. Sometimes I wish to be there, to fly away and be there. How I would like to bring them here and have them all together, but, I can’t.
Site 1- Familias Separadas/ Eres Mi Todo (You Are My Everything) Location: City Hall Courtyard, Broad Street and JFK Blvd, Philadelphia
The artwork depicts the portrait of Maria and her daughter. The compass serves as a symbol of migration and it's connection to immigrant families searching for a better life and direction for their families. "Eres Mi Todo" (You are my everything) are the handwritten words from a letter sent by Jose, Maria's husband.
Maria's husband lived in Philadelphia and was deported. He attempted to cross the border again to be reunited with his family. He was caught by ICE in Texas and now has 6 months left to his 3 year jail sentence in California. Once his sentence is over, he will be sent back to Mexico. Maria continues to live in Philadelphia and has five children that she is taking care of. She speaks about the difficulty of making the decision to stay or leave to Mexico to be reunited with her husband.
María: …And it’s something very difficult because I can’t return [to my country] and leave a part of me here. Also… [I can’t] return to be with my husband and the children… because it’s very difficult. And, my husband José knows this well, and he is clear about it because he told me that sometimes he thinks that we will not be together again, our children will split us apart.
And, he has told me that it doesn’t matter, if I don’t return, it doesn’t matter. I can stay here because he knows very well that my other kids, they are older and they don’t want to come back [to Mexico.].
And he says to me, “So, it is a decision that you should take: Your children or me. And it is very clear that you are not gonna leave behind your children. And you will be always with them,” he says. “So, I am left out.” Now this is how it is. “Make the right decision.”
On Thursday, September 10th at 11:00 am, I will be unveiling the first phase of my Open Source project, Familias Separadas at the compass in the courtyard of City Hall.
Viewers can listen to the audio stories of each community highlighted through each artwork placed at each site. Stay tuned here to listen and see the works representing the stories of undocumented families affected by deportations.
I am creating a total of five large-scale artworks that will be placed throughout the city. Each temporary work of art will either be digitally produced or created using large-scale stencils depicting portraits, images, and text based on the personal stories she collected.
I wanted to shift the focus from the statistics and numbers of people that have been deported and have others see the individual father, mother, or brother who has been torn apart from their families.
The temporary image that will eventually fade reflects the fading presence of the person who has been deported. I want to bring the stories of the deported back to the places where they worked, dreamed, and loved, and I want others to see the humanity that lies there.
My project is a series of five temporary site-specific public art works, in various locations around Philadelphia, beginning with vinyl installations on the ground at the compass at the City Hall Courtyard and in Love Park. I am one of fourteen artists who have been or will be creating works as part of the Open Source exhibition. The Open Source outdoor exhibition will culminate in a month-long celebration in October 2015.
For over a year and a half, I have worked with undocumented youth and families in partnership with Juntos, a Latino immigrant community-led organization fighting for human rights as Immigrants, parents, youth, and workers. I have been collecting audio stories from undocumented families that reveal the moment their loved ones were deported and how their lives changed before and after deportation.
In the summer, I led a workshop and created with the participants several messages to fight for the closure of the Berks Detention Center in Reading, Pa. Juntos is currently fighting to close the Berks Detention Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, where many families are held as they await deportation proceedings. Juntos believes that the imprisonment of children is inhumane and illegal, and can cause long term trauma to the children and their families. They fight to end the criminalization, detention and deportation of the Latino immigrant community.
Here are some images from the interviews and workshops with community members.