Detention centers for immigrants stopped at the border are being run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where living conditions are very poor and people are treated badly as well. Women’s Empowerment (WE) at Washington High School has decided to take action for these families in need. They created the Smile Drive, where you can donate basic necessities such as soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, women’s hygiene products and more to these detention facilities, specifically for children who have been separated from their parents.
Sophomores Masooma Ali and Carolina Barajas, along with junior Insha Syed, are responsible for creating this drive, and each of them led the project with the help of other members. They were inspired by a video uploaded by The New York Times that they watched at a WE meeting which showed kids from the age of four to seventeen dealing with horrible living conditions in the detention camps. It sparked conversation among club members on how they could help these kids in need. Barajas had a personal reason for being very involved in the drive, saying, “Being a child of immigrant parents and thinking that it could have been me in the same position as these innocent children really motivates me to do something and help them in whatever way possible.”
After consulting Julianna Danner-Vera, their advisor, they got approval to set up the drive. Masooma made posters to help advertise the cause itself, and also sent people from the focus group to classrooms in order to raise awareness and collect money for donations. They put donation boxes in the library as well for easy access. As for how exactly they planned to get these items to the detaining facilities, Masooma Ali said, “Mrs. Danna Vera has a friend who actually visits these places often enough to where I think he knows some of these people personally, so he will be dropping stuff off.”
These detention centers have caused an uproar with critics arguing that these strict policies target immigrants of color. Carolina says, “The laws Donald Trump is constantly trying to pass are heartbreaking and devastating. It’s hard to believe someone can show so much hate and racism towards such specific ethnicities. If you’re not 100% indigenous American, you are an immigrant from somewhere in your lineage. We should all have a collective understanding of how this country is a wide open space for people to come be of service in this land and be an integral part of our communities.”