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Much of the focus of the media and the nation as a whole right now is on immigration. Only a few days ago, our country was rocked with tragic information that a young Guatemalan girl named Jakelin Caal Maquin, only 7 years old, died due to what was likely a preventable illness while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Her death is only the most recent in a string of tragic and preventable occurrences related to immigration crackdowns at the southern border of the United States.
The last two years have been marked in no small part by the inhumane and horrific treatment of immigrants that is slowly becoming the new normal in the United States. The storm over new immigration policies has been brewing for some time. .
Readers of Ladybud may remember that over the summer, an immigrant and activist made international news by climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July. This brave woman, Therese “Patricia” Okoumou, sought to raise awareness of the inhumane treatment of immigrants and the damages of zero-tolerance immigration policies.
Her protest of climbing Lady Liberty was a visual reminder of the significance of that statute, especially once she hung the banner calling for the United States to “Abolish ICE.” People who saw her at the base of that symbolic work of art had to consider how the United States has turned its back on its promise of freedom and protection for the downtrodden.
People across the country watched, somewhere between horrified and enraptured, as law enforcement officials slowly approach the woman and sought to bring her down from the statue. After eluding capture on the statue for three hours, Okoumou was taken into custody and charged with interfering with government agency functions, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in federal court.
After her release, she spoke bluntly about draconian immigration policies and the inhumanity of putting children in cages. Her stance and her death-defying feat of public activism has inspired many and called attention to the hypocrisy of the current immigration policies in the U.S.
On Monday, December 17, 2018, Okoumou was found guilty on all three charges. She will be sentenced in March and could face up to 18 months of incarceration. Although she plead not guilty to the crime, this brave woman, who herself came to the United States from the Congo, also does not deny that she climbed the statue for a protest. She also does not fear whatever penalty she might face. She has affirmed that she is “on the right side of history,” and there’s really no denying that.
Hopefully, Ohoumou’s bravery will inspire others to stand up against the current administration’s horrific approach to immigration policy.
For previous articles about activism, click here.