I spent yesterday inside of a prison in South Texas where 31 of my clients are being held indefinitely. I write these little reports for Facebook because I get to experience and witness things involving immigration that most curious people cannot. These experiences change and inspire and terrify me and when they are happening I try to remember little details and powerful moments to recount as if writing about them could somehow bring the experience to the people who read the account and change and inspire and terrify them too. This latest group of women I am working with are special to me because I met them in Mexico and spent days and days accompanying them on the last push of their migration to the US. Most often I meet clients and they are in jumpsuits and I am told their Alien Numbers and there is a protective veil of professional relationship so i can compartmentalize the terrible things that are happening to them, for better or for worse. This group is different. These women feel like my compañeras. Seeing them detained so brutally feels unbearable yet something that has to be beared as the remarkable network of people attempting to liberate them chips away at the Goliath-like detention machine they are trapped in. The government and the media works really hard to cast a shadow of criminality on migrants but these women are not criminals. Most have never dreamed of committing a crime in their lives. They are gentle and as fearful of violence as you and I. They all turned themselves in at the port of entry to ask for protection. I know. I was with them. Yet they are being treated like animals inside of this prison. They are in cold concrete cell-blocks and get no time in the sunshine except for caged in outdoor cells. They are losing weight because they don’t get enough of the slop that they are fed. They are not getting proper medical care or medication. A few are being held in solitary for behavior infractions and were brought to me with hands cuffed behind their backs and looks of sheer terror on their faces. During my visit I would reach for their hands and when we touched they would start to sob and plead for me to get them out and ask me why I had abandoned them like this. How do you explain to someone that you swore to help that you are doing the best you can but they are collateral damage in a bitter political battle in a country that is more than willing to dehumanize people like them and that their lives don’t matter to politicians and corporations. The one moment I will remember most vividly from yesterday was when one woman was out of time with me and her jailers were lurking around and she quickly slipped me this note that I put in my pocket. I am worried to die without medication. She wrote it to me like a secret, like a fear she was afraid she wasn’t allowed to have. It may seem like marginalia but it is still in my pocket. Maybe I will keep it on my fridge to remind me what is at stake when I am tired or afraid. The people who support the vicious detention will likely never hold that woman’s hand or watch her cry. ICE detention should be abolished today before another gentle and innocent person dies in custody. We can do better and we will the moment we stop basing our policies on the criminalization of migrants.
Reprinted from Facebook with author’s permission. Consider supporting Annunciation House in El Paso to help at the border.