Marissa: Reflection on a trip to the border

 Pictured left to right: Jessie Chappel, Yareli Urbina, Marissa Ornelas, Katie Meola

Pictured left to right: Jessie Chappel, Yareli Urbina, Marissa Ornelas, Katie Meola

For a long time I was naive to the destruction that the United States had been a part of in Central America. To this day Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have some of the highest murder rates. At the South Texas Family Residential Center, I saw the consequences of this destruction first hand. The women and children that are imprisoned in the detention center are fleeing poverty, gang threats, and domestic violence. During my time in the detention center I was responsible for translating and prepping women for their credible fear hearings. From 8:00am till 6:00pm I heard the stories of women who had made the courageous decision to leave their home countries with their small children with the hope of a better life.  

Unfortunately United States asylum law is not that welcoming, I learned that a person has to have suffered personal persecution in order to be given protection from the United States. This means that a person that has left their home country because of a war, general violence, or poverty does not get protection. I quickly realized that even if a person had been personally victimized they could still be denied asylum. It seemed so unfair to have to explain to the women that the law does not protect everyone. The treatment of the women and children once they made it to the United States was horrific. The women told stories of their experiences in the hieleras and perreras and of the treatment they received from ICE officials. In one of my interviews a women tried to grapple with this treatment. She said, β€œ Why do they treat us so bad? We are human beings.” I could not explain the hatred that fuels the ICE officers actions and the United States immigration policies.

I am here because my grandparents made the decision to leave Mexico to give their children a better life. I am the product of my grandparents dreams, sacrifice, and hard work.  In the women and children I met in the detention center, I saw my grandma, mom, aunts, and cousins. In an odd way, I found hope and strength in the women, since they had endured so much and in the face of it all were strong enough to make the trip to the United States. To imprison people who are fleeing poverty and violence that the United States has played a role in, reeks of injustice.

For so long people have decided to look the other way and to act is if what is happening in Dilley is fair. It’s time to stop turning the other way and to see the injustice that is happening here. It is time to work to close detention centers like these that exist across the United States. Family detention must come to an end because no human being is illegal and every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.