Christine Ashley, a permanent U.S. resident who has had her green card for 42 years, was arrested as she returned from a visit to the U.K. and spent a month wrongly detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
During that month, she sketched portraits of other immigrant women detained with her. After her release, she turned those sketches into powerful paintings.
At a June 5 reception at the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC, Christine, a UNITE HERE Local 217 member who works in the Newport, R.I., school lunch program, will discuss her experience and the injustices routinely inflicted upon immigrants.
NOTE: The exhibit is open to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 1-29.
I was arrested by Home Land Security on July 28, 2011 at Boston Logan Airport.
I was returning from Great Britain where I was visiting my family.
I am a permanent resident of the United States of America and have held my green card for 42 years.
I am proud of my British heritage and equally proud of my life, my work and my family in America.
I was stunned to find myself interrogated, accused of lying to Federal Agents, arrested with no access to a lawyer and promptly incarcerated in a Boston prison.
I spend one month in prison “detained” in the I.C.E. Unit 1102 with 30 other immigrant women.
We were two or three to a cell, with the toilet bowl in plain sight. A window in the cell door exposed us to the relentless gaze of male and female guards.
This forced intimacy and shared experience of humiliation brought about an unexpected bond of caring, humility and kindness that transcended anything in my experience of life thus far.
I was able to clear my name thanks to the diligent efforts of my husband Michael, who borrowed money for my legal defense.
I was fortunate. Most of the immigrants in the prison had spent many months and in some cases, years, before either appearing before a Judge or being abruptly deported after paying large amounts of money in a desperate bid to remain in America.
I was privileged to hear many of the woman’s stories and document the particulars of their lives.
I was able to draw about 11 portraits in ball point pen and tried to commit to memory their likeness and their spirit.
Now as oil paintings, these portraits are the core of my series, “Immigrant Heart”.
This exhibition is a tribute to all Immigrants who experience injustice and pain inflicted by a system devoid of compassion or respect for human rights.