Karnes Detention Center Journal: Day 7

Day 7: July 7, 2018 (Saturday)

I fly home this morning. Here is my wrap up:

Almost without exception, each woman I spoke to has endured the following: watching friends and family murdered, rape(s), kidnapping, domestic violence, extreme poverty, lack of education, living in a machismo culture, and untrustworthy and corrupt police. Many were also illiterate or spoke an indigenous language which made it incredible difficult to communicate.

I spoke to about 20–25 women this week. I spoke to many in Spanish and also worked with an interpreter for the interviews. It was quite difficult for me to ask questions in Spanish and then take notes in English, so working with an interpreter was crucial even though I am proficient in Spanish.

Legal work I completed this week:

· Intake questionnaires

· Credible fear and reasonable fear interviews

· Prep for negative CFI result, appeal to immigration judge

· Draft bond declaration for a minor who had been held in violation of the Flores settlement

· Draft a request for re-interview declaration for a woman who had a good case for an appeal

This week was the most rewarding experience I have had. It was the reason I became a lawyer. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to use my legal skills for a humanitarian crisis within our own borders, created by our government.

I was frequently the first person that these women have ever told their stories to. It was humbling to be able to bear witness to what they have gone through and what they continue to endure. One of the most striking things that any of the women told me was near the end of my week. I asked a woman a routine question — what was the phone number of her family member in the US. She started to cry, and explained that she had her young children singing the phone numbers of her family members in the US so they had the numbers memorized, as that was their most prized piece of information. As a mom, that still makes me cry to think about, because you never want your kids to have to experience that kind of fear. You want them to feel secure, and these families did the only thing they could to escape the horrors of their realities: they walked toward freedom. A couple women told me that they were welcomed by border patrol when they presented themselves at the border, but more said that the border patrol agents made them feel unwelcome. They heard, “why are you here?”, “don’t you have anywhere else to go?” and “we don’t want you here.” Imagine walking for weeks or months, being harassed or raped along the way, with no money and no possessions, and arriving to those sentiments when you thought that this would be your refuge.

This experience will live on in me forever, and I will keep working to change these abusive policies. Sharing these experiences with others is one significant way that we will make change. So many Americans are so ignorant when it comes to life in other places. They seem to want to shut out the pain that others are experiencing because it is harder to ignore human suffering if you know how truly bad it is. I hope to be able to share my experience as much as I can, and to do more to help with this fight.