IT has been a month plus since my last blog. I have been on vacation in France reading and learning about Europe's immigration challenges. When I returned home to Portland last week, I received a letter from a woman friend who has been at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona for ten months. She is Guatemalan but not a mother with children. She fled her community as she had received death threats from a local gang. They tried to extort $15,000 from her father who works in the United States or "they would kill me."
She made some mistakes in entering the USA using an alias or assumed name. When I met her, she shared her sad story and showed me her evidence, the death threat letters. Her asylum plea had been rejected a day before we first met. She was extremely upset and cried much of our visit. Something about her and her story affected me deeply - partly, because I know the area where she lives in Guatemala and partly, because she really wanted to begin again in the United States and to be reunited with her father who paid for her secondary education to become a grade school teacher.
She writes: "Fifteen days ago when the judge rejected my last bail request, I felt very sad that immigration officials couldn't and didn't take into consideration my case. They rejected my asylum petition and I don't understand these people who have no conscience nor give me the opportunity as I have suffered so much.
She continues: " I only was thinking of saving my life from death. I never thought of hurting anyone in this country (USA) and the authorities are wrong in what they think about me. I am a person who desires to be and do something better in life. I am now waiting for them to deport me."
On the outside of the envelope addressed to me, there is a stamp that says THIS CORRESPONDENCE HAS BEEN MAILED FROM A DETENTION CENTER. Why? I already know that it comes from a Detention Center as my friend has to put her name and number plus the return address - Eloy Detention Center. It is one more example of bureaucracy at work.
On June 13 2015 200 residents of the Eloy Detention Center went on a hunger strike to protest the terrible physical abuse and lack of medical care. To support the strikers, go to http://puenteaz.org/press-releases/breaking-eloy-hunger-strike/ to support them. And remember my friend as she faces an unknown future in Guatemala.
She is in my heart, my prayers and my thoughts as she makes this journey. I have her address and hope that our paths will cross again and that she will be safe.
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?