I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Maybe

By on November 10, 2011

 From Peg Bowden’s Arroya.org

 

•November 7, 2011

 The hotly debated border fence hides an ugly gruth about the U.S. immigration policy

A few weeks ago PBS aired a TV documentary, called “Lost in Detention”. It was a chilling tale of incarceration and loss of basic human rights in 250 “detention centers” throughout the USA, land of the free.  Every week I meet migrants who have been locked up for days, weeks, sometime years in a detention center. Often they are released in Nogales, Sonora and they come to the comedor for help. As I walk the mile to the comedor, I pass a detention center on the US side of the border—a fact that I was totally unaware of until a few weeks ago. The centers are not marked in an obvious way. They look like little white buildings in the distance.

 

 

Virgin at the border

 

Last week I noticed a man looking for a warm jacket and clean socks. He is “Sergio,” and he has been in a detention center for 3 years total—off and on for the past 4 years. Sergio speaks perfect English. He has lived in Houston, Texas, since he was 4 years old. He is 27 years old, has 3 children, and he desperately wants to go home to Houston.

 

So I ask, “Why have you been locked up for 3 years?”

 

“Well….I did some stupid things when I was young,” is his reply.

 

“Like what?”

 

“When I was 16 years old I was caught speeding without a license. So I went to traffic school, got my license suspended for awhile…..thank god I didn’t hit anyone. Stupid teenager, that was me.”

 

 

Sergio and the Virgen de Guadalupe

 

OK—-but I’m puzzled. “Why were you picked up and locked in detention. Surely something you did 11 years ago doesn’t mean you go to detention for 3 years…does it?”

 

Sergio’s eyes well up with tears. He clutches his jacket and other comedor clothing. He tells me, “I have been fighting this for 3 years. I’ve made appeals to the judge. Finally I just signed some papers when they promised to let me go. But I am being deported to Guatemala, where I was born. Guatemala!!??   I have no family there. I know no one. The papers I signed say I cannot return to Houston, ever.”

 

Sergio is a professional photographer in Houston, specializing in weddings, quinceaneras, parties. He was picked up by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) 4 years ago, and he is not sure why. Maybe an old parking ticket, he muses? He honestly does not know. But, when his records were checked, they found the old driving violation when he was 16. Next thing he knew, he was in Livingston, Texas and a detention center.

 

 

The building of America’s Wall

 

I ask him about that experience. Sergio sits down. He is clearly emotional talking about it. So I back off. He abruptly asks me to take his photograph in front of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Finally he says: “I was locked up in this room with other beds and a big glass window between the rooms, with more beds. And more rooms. There were no windows to the outside to let in light.  I never saw the sun for weeks.”

 

I ask about any physical abuse. He just shrugs.

 

And then he says the most amazing thing of all: “I don’t blame your country for this. You can’t just let everyone across the border. But your country is going to extremes! This is crazy. I have a job, and I’ve lived in Houston almost my whole life!” I cannot believe he is defending our broken immigration system. I cannot look him in the eye at this moment.

 

One thing is certain. Sergio will not be heading to Guatemala. He is heading home for Christmas to Houston. “I have got to be home with my kids at Christmas. I will travel alone. I know the way…I’ve done it before.”

 

I advice Sergio that if he gets picked up it will mean more detention, more lock-up time. I give him the phone number of a US attorney that may be able to help him if he is picked up during his trek to Houston.

 

He gives me a hug, crosses himself, and steps out into the sun.

 

And I feel utterly helpless as I watch him go.

 

 

 

 

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I’ll be home for Christmas…

 

•November 7, 2011 • 2 Comments

 

 

 

A few weeks ago PBS aired a TV documentary, called “Lost in Detention”. It was a chilling tale of incarceration and loss of basic human rights in 250 “detention centers” throughout the USA, land of the free.  Every week I meet migrants who have been locked up for days, weeks, sometime years in a detention center. Often they are released in Nogales, Sonora and they come to the comedor for help. As I walk the mile to the comedor, I pass a detention center on the US side of the border—a fact that I was totally unaware of until a few weeks ago. The centers are not marked in an obvious way. They look like little white buildings in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

Virgin at the border

 

 

 

Last week I noticed a man looking for a warm jacket and clean socks. He is “Sergio,” and he has been in a detention center for 3 years total—off and on for the past 4 years. Sergio speaks perfect English. He has lived in Houston, Texas, since he was 4 years old. He is 27 years old, has 3 children, and he desperately wants to go home to Houston.

 

 

 

So I ask, “Why have you been locked up for 3 years?”

 

 

 

“Well….I did some stupid things when I was young,” is his reply.

 

 

 

“Like what?”

 

 

 

“When I was 16 years old I was caught speeding without a license. So I went to traffic school, got my license suspended for awhile…..thank god I didn’t hit anyone. Stupid teenager, that was me.”

 

 

 

 

 

Sergio and the Virgen de Guadalupe

 

 

 

OK—-but I’m puzzled. “Why were you picked up and locked in detention. Surely something you did 11 years ago doesn’t mean you go to detention for 3 years…does it?”

 

 

 

Sergio’s eyes well up with tears. He clutches his jacket and other comedor clothing. He tells me, “I have been fighting this for 3 years. I’ve made appeals to the judge. Finally I just signed some papers when they promised to let me go. But I am being deported to Guatemala, where I was born. Guatemala!!??   I have no family there. I know no one. The papers I signed say I cannot return to Houston, ever.”

 

 

 

Sergio is a professional photographer in Houston, specializing in weddings, quinceaneras, parties. He was picked up by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) 4 years ago, and he is not sure why. Maybe an old parking ticket, he muses? He honestly does not know. But, when his records were checked, they found the old driving violation when he was 16. Next thing he knew, he was in Livingston, Texas and a detention center.

 

 

 

 

 

The building of America’s Wall

 

 

 

I ask him about that experience. Sergio sits down. He is clearly emotional talking about it. So I back off. He abruptly asks me to take his photograph in front of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Finally he says: “I was locked up in this room with other beds and a big glass window between the rooms, with more beds. And more rooms. There were no windows to the outside to let in light.  I never saw the sun for weeks.”

 

 

 

I ask about any physical abuse. He just shrugs.

 

 

 

And then he says the most amazing thing of all: “I don’t blame your country for this. You can’t just let everyone across the border. But your country is going to extremes! This is crazy. I have a job, and I’ve lived in Houston almost my whole life!” I cannot believe he is defending our broken immigration system. I cannot look him in the eye at this moment.

 

 

 

One thing is certain. Sergio will not be heading to Guatemala. He is heading home for Christmas to Houston. “I have got to be home with my kids at Christmas. I will travel alone. I know the way…I’ve done it before.”

 

 

 

I advice Sergio that if he gets picked up it will mean more detention, more lock-up time. I give him the phone number of a US attorney that may be able to help him if he is picked up during his trek to Houston.

 

 

 

He gives me a hug, crosses himself, and steps out into the sun.

 

 

 

And I feel utterly helpless as I watch him go.

 

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