US visa policies protested in sky on Independence Day

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

There have been numerous controversies over children being detained in camps and being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump policies.  In a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre it is said that the policy still continues.

Two years ago there was a great deal of controversy over the treatment of children.  One case that drew attention was when children scared, frightened and crying yelled out:

“¡Mami!” “¡Papá!”

Another child said in tears:

“I don’t want them to stop my father,”

“I don’t want them to deport him.”   

Due to a public outcry the policy had supposedly ended about two years ago.  However, since then thousands more children have been separated from their parents.  Concerns over the treatment of migrants in detention continues.

A group of 80 artists staged a fly over on American Independence Day, protesting US immigration policies. Two fleets of sky-typing planes took to the skies with messages calling for an end to immigrant detention in the United States as part of a wider project called ‘In Plain Sight’.

Displaying messages such as ‘Care Not Cages’, ‘Unseen Mothers and ‘Nosotras Te Vemos (We See You), planes flew over 80 locations, including US immigration detention facilities, immigration courts, US borders and historic sites such as Ellis Island. The sky writing was displayed in nearly 20 languages including Hindi, Kurdish, Lakota and Punjabi.

In Plain Sight project against detention of migrants

The ‘In Plain Sight’ project launched 12 months ago, when artists Cassils and Rafa Esparza teamed up, with a vision to form a coalition of artists and activists determined to tackle the injustices of mass immigration detention.

The project has drawn thousands of followers and members including lawyer, Chase Strangio; Patrisse Cullors – a founder member of Black Lives Matter; and artist Hank Willis-Thomas. The initiative is also backed by 10 partner organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Raices and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Lawyer Chase Strangio said: “As a lawyer I am often constrained by the structural and discursive limits of the law.” Strangio said that he was using his sky writing message to honour the memory of Lorena Borjas, a transgender immigrant activist who died in March from COVID-19.

“I believe that art and artistic disruption are essential components of movements for social transformation,” Strangio said.

Artist Alok Vaid-Menon had his message “God Brown America” displayed over the Montgomery Processing Center, which is close to his home town of College Park, Texas.

Vaid-Menon said: “The project represents a commitment to elevating the stories of migrants and gender-nonconforming people. As a descendant of refugees, it’s really important for me to help with this cause. I want to make sure people of color and immigrants in Texas feel like they belong.”

Artists spread their political messages by sky writing

Artists have used various forms of media and creativity to spread their political message in recent years, including billboards, exhibits in museums and even setting up their own activist groups. Taking to the skies is the latest in a long line of ways artists have protested against perceived injustices in society.

Commenting on the sky-writing idea, Cassils said: “About a year ago, Rafa started a conversation with a bunch of artists in Los Angeles about issues surrounding migrant detention. We were trying to counter feelings of hopelessness and wondered what we, as artists, could do to visualize the issue on a massive scale.”

The ‘In Plain Sight’ movement gathered momentum as immigrants held in detention centers in huge numbers began to die from the spread of COVID-19. Cassils said that the sky-writing project had initially been planned without any press involvement. However, when the pandemic struck, an Instagram page was launched calling for urgent action.

Several things reportedly inspired the project, including the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police officers. Jammie Holmes, an artist, used George Floyd’s final words ‘They’re Going To Kill Me’ for his sky bound message, which was displayed across five US cities.

Trump mismanages coronavirus pandemic

Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been heavily criticized, particularly where immigrants are concerned. US borders have been shut and it’s taken court action to allow the release of hundreds of immigrants detained in US immigration detention facilities, though thousands remain in danger of catching the virus.

Trump has now banned many US work visas until the end of 2020, citing the pandemic as the reason for his recent proclamation, which he claims will ‘protect American workers.’

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