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WNC Cub Scouts Send Christmas Cards To Inmates In ICE Custody

Cass Herrington
BPR News

Earlier this year, BPR introduced to listeners a new bilingual Scout pack in Hendersonville.  During 2019, Scout Pack 607 has gone on a camping trip, learned survival skills, and completed community service projects. 

For their last project of the year, the Scouts were assigned to make Christmas cards for inmates at an immigration detention center in Georgia. 

Every Cub Scout gathering follows a similar structure. It opens with a recitation of the pledge of allegiance, the Scout law and the Scout oath. Then the kids break off into groups to learn new skills, like tying a knot or safely building a campfire. But during one of their last meetings, something unexpected happened. 

“Scouts are required to do service projects, and I had been informed about people sending cards to Stewart Detention Center, and felt like that would be a good project for these kids,” pack committee member Mickey Coleman explained. “So I had all the little cards made and the markers out.”

Stewart Detention Center is a private prison run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Lumpkin, Georgia. Individuals arrested by ICE here in Western North Carolina are often sent to Stewart before they’re deported to their country of origin.

Credit Mickey Coleman

“The cubmaster, who is bilingual, told the parents about the project. There were about five parents at this table, and all of the sudden, they were intently working on these cards, grabbing markers and crayons,” Coleman said. 

Isabel Mendoza is one of the moms who picked up a marker. 

“I did it for the sake of humanity. Because, just like them, I could be in their place,” Mendoza said. “And more than anything, these are the days, this is the time of year, that we want to feel something beautiful for Christmas.” 

One parent wrote: “por más obscura que sea la noche, siempre habrá un lindo amanecer.” Coleman, who’s learning Spanish, translates. 

“Even in the darkest of night, there’s always a new morning, a new dawn? What a thing to say to someone who can’t even touch his child’s hand at this detention center,” Coleman said. 

Coleman says it was a tearful moment for the Scout leaders. Because for these parents, fears about deportation have seeped into daily life, whether directly or through someone they know. 

Credit Cass Herrington / BPR News
BPR News

“I think that we, as a Hispanic community, have a feeling of longing, to know why they are there,” Luz Sandovar, another parent, said. “Because they have different situations that brought them there, maybe they weren’t prepared for it, or maybe they don’t need to be there at all.”

When I asked a group of six parents whether fears are having an effect on their children, they all nodded, quietly. 

“These are heavy topics, especially for the kids. Because even though at home we don’t talk much about it. At school, or other places, they hear it. And sometimes they come home and ask and it’s hard to give an answer,” Cub Scout mom Luz Martinez said. “They talk about fears, that one day their parent won’t be there to pick them up from school, or that a parent is being deported, at any moment.”

Pack 607 sent the Christmas cards to Refugios, an organization that assists families and inmates, in the tiny town of Lumpkin. 
Translations were verified by Luis Martinez. 

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