'Family Separation and Detention: A Rant' and Other Selected Poems


By Gilda L. Ochoa

Family Separation and Detention: A Rant

Too many politicians and other institutions perpetuating atrocities 
implementing policies 
fueled by rhetoric dehumanizing

Hiding the realities of why people are migrating 
Masking decades of US policies 
Funding repressive regimes 
and military trainings in Central American countries Revealing the depths of US imperialism and white supremacy

Money making entities 
Backed by federal agencies 
Separating families 
Benefiting from policies destroying communities

What’s happening in these facilities? Who’s monitoring these entities? These growing tent-cities 
Not designed for residency

We see the latest studies The drugging of babies People dying 
Many more isolating No plans for reuniting

Calls for civility at a time of inhumanity Seems like gas lighting 
Linked to centuries of silencing Challenging our collective memories About power and inequality

What are our responsibilities in the midst of these realities? As more people realize the historical and institutional ties Perpetuating these state-sanctioned crimes

Don’t you hear the cries? 
They can’t be drowned out by continual lies

A LA Weekend Protest

A sea of white shirts 
A manicured stage 
US flags

Liberal politicians sharing the podium with religious leaders and called out by 
Radical activists 
Speaking truths 
Linking the history of slavery to contemporary forms of separating families

Revolutionaries marching through 
with their megaphones 
Naming the systemic processes perpetuating atrocities

Down the street 
Hidden from view 
The gray building 
Surrounded by wire

A call and response 
“You are not alone” 
Between the chants

I heard the taps 
Tap, tap, tap

Then the lights flickered 
And the tears flowed

Across the street 
A row of tents 

This is the U.S.

American Generosity?

Alex Azar 
Former drug company executive 
Secretary of Heath and Human Services 
Calling the stealing of Central American babies 
Ripping apart of families 
Such zero tolerance immigration policies 
An act of American generosity

We see past this fallacy 
Camouflaging realities 
of abuse and corporate money making 
We’ll have no part of this complacency

We know these are crimes against humanity 
Rooted in a legacy of war funding 
Exploiting our lands and communities 
Devastating economies 
Falsely cast as generosity

Don’t sell us your mythology 
Call it what it is 
White supremacy

Patriarchy, and 
US imperialism

Homeland Security, Crimes Against Humanity

Morally repugnant 
Counter-productive and 
Characterizing the separating of families

Morally repugnant 
Say four of the resigning 
Members of the Advisory Council of Homeland Security 
Refusing to be associated with Trump’s immigration policies separating families

Children and families bravely tell the realities of mental, emotional, sexual and physical atrocities 
In caged-in facilities 
In what some call doghouses 
Tents and office buildings not designed for residency

Dehydration, hunger and drugging 
Lice, scabies, hitting 
Policies of no hugging, even of siblings

Enforced sleeplessness 
Freezing on concrete flooring 
No mattresses 
Limited showering and clean clothing 

Posttraumatic stress 
Where is the sense of urgency?

There’s a history of impunity 
involved with separating families and human caging

Morally repugnant 
Counter-productive and 
How do these words mistakenly camouflage? 
Missing the depth 
of This 
State-Sanctioned Terror


Gilda L. Ochoa is the daughter of a Nicaraguan immigrant and a second generation Sicilian American. Born and raised in Los Angeles County, she is Professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies at Pomona College. Her most recent book Academic Profiling: Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap (2013) has received awards for its focus on race and eradicating racism. Ochoa’s earlier books include Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican American Community (2004), Learning from Latino Teachers (2007), and Latina/o Los Angeles (2005), co- edited with her brother Enrique C. Ochoa. Her poetry has appeared in Latino Rebels