EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The video begins with a close-up shot of Willie Nelson reciting a poem he wrote:
“What happened to love on the border?
We have love south of the border,
And we have love north of the border,
But what happened to God’s law and order?
And what happened to love on the border.”
The country legend and his daughter Amy have teamed up with migrant advocacy groups to give a voice to women and children detained in privately-run immigration facilities on or near the U.S.-Mexico border.
In honor of National Immigrants Day, which is Oct. 28, they have released Part 1 of a two-part web series called “Love on the Border.”
The shot quickly turns to a protest outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, just outside Austin.
Members of Mujeres Luchadoras, or Women Warriors, call on the Biden administration to close privately run Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, such as Hutto, which CoreCivic, a private company that provides corrections and detention management, operates.
“They’re holding 500 women captive for migrating,” says Amy Nelson. “These women, who have come here for a better life and who have a lot to offer, came here for help, and they put them in a cage.”
Mujeres Luchadoras is a group of formerly detained women who fight for the freedom of immigrants and asylum-seekers who have yet to be released.
Talking through a bullhorn, two young women introduce Eldis Cortez and her young son and daughter Paola. The mother and daughter, who migrated from Honduras, were detained in separate facilities, but their experiences were similar.
Eldis said she and her son were detained two years ago at the ICE-run Karnes County Family Residential Center, and she felt that staff there ignored their basic needs. Her son, she said, urinated his pants, and the staffers would not help her change him. She said he stayed in the same clothes for three days.
“I do not wish this upon any mother or young child,” Eldis says.
Paola attempted to join her mother in the U.S. and found herself inside an undisclosed immigration detention as recently as a month ago.
“All I can tell you is that there is a lot of suffering there,” she said, speaking outside the Hutto facility. “They were horrible times for me.”
Paola said she got sick, and the staff told her that she’d come down with a fever. She said she expected some form of treatment or medicine, but guards ultimately only told her to drink water.
The activists say the Hutto facility is one of 10 privately run facilities that they want the White House to close.
However, a federal appeals court tossed out California’s ban on privately owned immigration detention facilities this month. A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the ban, Assembly Bill 32, interfered with the federal government’s authority to enforce the law, the Associated Press reported.
Meantime, the web series aims to garner support and amplify the voices of women and children like Eldis and Paola. Willie and Amy Nelson collaborated with Grassroots Leadership volunteers, who have been on the front lines working to reunite immigrant families and offering support and legal aid to those in need.
“No person, no human being — be they an immigrant or not — no one deserves that,” Paola said about her time in the detention center.
Said Eldis: “I give thanks to God for the opportunity to have you listen to us, in supporting us as immigrants.”
Part 2 of “Love on the Border” will premiere on Nov. 4 on the Grassroots Leadership YouTube channel.