A few days ago, all of us new volunteers went to see another site (other than the two main houses) that we will be working at called Loretto. Loretto is a part of a nursing home that has been unused for years and that has been donated for our use. At this site, people who have been detained and processed by immigration control are released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are dropped off to us. From what I gather, this is possible because ICE knows who we are and we have a good relationship with them. The people usually coming through were usually detained by ICE right after crossing the border not through a port of entry or came without proper papers, or are seeking asylum. There, we offer food, a change of clothes, showers, and a place to sleep for the night. The people who usually come through are almost always families, including nursing mothers. These families usually have family that is already living in the United States that they are trying to meet up with, and we help them get to those loved ones. The people that pass through typically have a phone number for their family, and we help them call their relative and explain to said relative how to buy a bus or plane ticket for our guest. The people that pass through Loretto may leave that very day, or may leave after a few days, depending on travel plans.
Not everyone will be able to stay in the United States, however. They have to check in with an immigration office in their respective cities/destinations, where their case will be further processed. There was one woman from Guatemala that we received yesterday who was nursing a baby. She travelled all the way from her home country, assumedly by bus with her daughter, to seek a better life in the United States. She said she was poor, with a passed husband and father, and I assume she wanted to find a better life here. She had family in Florida, if I remember correctly, and will be further processed there. She will probably ultimately end up being deported back to Guatemala, because poverty is not a good enough reason to be granted residency, as per US standards. Usually people who are permitted to stay are seeking asylum, wherein the people must have had reasonable fear to leave their homes. In many cases, this is due to extortion.
There is one woman, Blanca, who recently arrived at Loretto. Blanca has two broken legs. She broke her legs while trying to get over the border fence into the United States. I was struck when I found this out; what situation must this woman be coming from to lead her to take such a risk? I mean she literally broke her bones trying to get here. Not only that, but she came all the way from Ecuador, taking a month and a half to get here. There was another woman that came in with her family, and though I didn’t understand much, I understood that there were men that had entered her home who held guns to her family’s head, including her own. After hearing about where Blanca and some of the others came from and what efforts they made in getting here, it makes me realize 1) how lucky I am, and how grateful I am to have lived the safe, blessed life that I do and 2) I know way too little about what is happening on this half of the world.
I do not see Loretto as a place of sadness, though. I see it as a place of hope. There is a playroom for children there, and I went into it to play with some of the kids. There were two toddler boys and a seven year old girl, and two fathers. I spoke with one of the fathers, Benjamin, who is 33 and is the father of the 7 year old, and I could feel it, the hope. He liked showing us some of his knowledge of English words (which I was impressed with because many, if not most, people who pass through here can’t speak any), and he had this light in his eyes and a smile on his face. I don’t know what it was like in his home in Guatemala, but now he was so close to a new life. He wants to learn English, he said. And that wish may soon come true, because he left that same day for a relative’s home in Georgia.
To be quite honest, I get a little emotional over the process. It is something so incredible to behold. We get to see people that have picked up their lives, their families, and travelled maybe days (or weeks/months, like Blanca) from their homes on a bus with young kids, with little to nothing with them; I don’t even know if they had money to meet all of their food needs on their journey. And then they get to the border of the United States. I can imagine looking at it, whether it be a port or a fence, and seeing the last obstacle between the life I left behind and hope for a better future, especially for my children. When we get them, we get to see them go off to that new life, even be a part of their journey, and I can only hope that they find what they’re looking for and keep it.
Until next time, I send all my love,