Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It is the third Wednesday of the month, and I am standing in front the the West County Detention Facility with about 75 people. Our numbers have steadily grown over the past few months, starting with 20 at my first one in May. This facility is one of the top 30 in the country in deporting non-criminal immigrants -- nearly 600 in a little over a year with no criminal record other than not having papers. How many families does this represent? how many children whose parents have been taken away?

This evening we hear two stories -- the first from a man anxious and struggling to read his story about being detained by ICE in a 5:30 am raid, flown to Phoenix, and released after significant money changed hands. He is still undocumented and fears where he is. He is seeking "una vida mejor, para mi y mi familia" -- a better life for him and his family.

The second is a woman who has papers -- but her husband did not. He had applied for sanctuary shortly after fleeing to the United States 20 years before, from threats on his life because his father was a high-ranking official in the Guatemalan government. He had stopped to pick up his children at school, and was over the no parking line. "Give him a ticket!" she yelled as they took him away. "Give him a $15 ticket!". He was deported, and before he could make his way back to the US, he was murdered.

"Now I have two children who have no father -- for a parking ticket."

These are the complicated stories of immigration. The man who just wants "a better life" -- can we throw open our borders to everyone in the world who wants a "better life"? Maybe not, but we can treat people with respect. And sanctuary? I do wonder about the relative chances of someone from Guatemala versus what some might consider a more "desirable" ethnic background.

Worst of all is the fear -- fear of picking up your children and being stopped, fear of someone pounding on your own door in the early morning. As I posted earlier, these fears are not strong enough to stop people from crossing the border -- but what causes them should be strong enough to violate our own sense of moral justice.

A poet steps up the the microphone. With soft guitar strumming in the background, he reads his own poem "Cansado (Tired)". Tired of being afraid, tired of running, tired of being stopped for being brown, tired of being treated like dirt.


Bill Baar said...

...and released after significant money changed hands.

Exchanged hands with an offical as in a bribe?

Linda Laskowski said...

I don't know. He said after he got to Phoenix, he got all his money and borrowed from the rest of his friends and family and was released. I did not have a chance to talk with him after the vigil, but he did not say it was a bribe.

Art said...

It is usually called "bail."

Bill Baar said...

I don't think illegals usually get to post bail as there flight risks. I thought that was one of the injustices they faced.