Illustration by Chloe Olsen, inspired by the quote below.
Part 1 of 6
Immigration Detention Center in Dilley, TX
“We are going to go on an adventure. We are going to a beautiful place where we can be safe, where we don’t have to be afraid anymore. But we have to run when they say run. We have to be quiet when they say be quiet. We have to hide when they say hide. We’ll sometimes have to go without food. Sometimes we will be thirsty. Sometimes we’ll have to wait a long time before we can go to the bathroom. But it will be worth it because where we are going, it is beautiful and safe, and we won’t have to worry anymore.”
When I heard this as one mother recounted what she had said to her child in a hushed, anxious, and hopeful tone before fleeing their country, it gave me the chills (translated from Spanish).
I recently returned from a week at an immigration detention center for asylum-seeking women and children in Dilley, TX. I’ve been dreading the task of actually articulating my thoughts about my experiences. The truth is, my brain is swimming with conflicting emotions; the complexity and horror of the experiences the women endured, the scope of the problems throughout the entire immigration system, and images and memories that will never leave me, to name a few.
The opportunity to volunteer as a Spanish interpreter for my attorney-sister fell into my lap a few weeks ago, and I jumped at the chance, despite hesitations I had about my ability to translate legal jargon and other terms related to violence and gangs with which I was not familiar. But my sister’s law firm, Dorsey and Whitney, LLP was sponsoring the project, and we just couldn’t say no.
I had a general apprehension/anxiety about the gravity of the situation at the border. But as I read the news and follow the desperation and trauma that families – children – are experiencing as they flee violence in their own countries and seek asylum in ours, I had to go and see for myself. I had to go to bear witness to the hardships we are adding to their already traumatized lives.
In the coming days, I will be addressing different aspects of my experiences in the detention center, including what I saw, heard, and did there. I’ll also include information about the people there, and most importantly, ways in which you can help these families, and help end family detention. Bear in mind that my experience is just a glimpse of a much larger system. My experience may be different from other conditions and procedures at other facilities, etc. Also, this info will likely become outdated soon due to changing laws (likely not for the better).
Part 2 of this story addresses the high stakes, fast-paced asylum process.