missing: humanity

Last week while I was at the jail with some immigration attorneys and other law students, one of the other student’s former students (she used to teach high school) was detained by ICE and taken to the very same facility where we had been doing intakes. Around the time we left the facility tired and drained from asking the same questions and hearing one depressing, usually senseless detention story after another, this woman’s favorite former student was on her way to the end of life as she’s known it for five years.

Apparently this young girl had been caught entering through Mexico some years back with several other family members. Since she’s from Honduras, she couldn’t be quickly returned (as is normal for Mexican illegal entrants), so they were all given court dates and released into the U.S. Rather than going to court, they traveled north to reunite with the family already here. The girl adapted to life in the U.S., learning English and graduating from high school with plans to go to technical college. She had a baby not long ago.

So while we happened to be at the jail, ICE came to their house looking for her brother and when she said he wasn’t around, they asked her name. When they looked it up they found she also had a deportation order and detained her. She asked to go in the house and see her baby, and to get a sweatshirt, and they said “No” to both requests. Her brother came home while this was happening, so in the end, their mother, who has temporary protected status in the U.S., lost her two children and has to care for her granddaughter until the daughter is back in Honduras after the inevitable deportation.

It’s ironic, because during our time at the jail, we started talking to two of the ICE agents who are in charge of the detainees. At one point the more offensive of the two defended their tactics, saying things like, “Well, we don’t detain just anyone.” He made it sound like they go after criminals and also pick up just a few unlawfully present workers along the way. He said something about how they have to pick up those who’ve had like “15 voluntary removals at the Mexican border.” It was a really sarcastic comment. The funny thing is that I met at least five detained guys who had no criminal records whatsoever. They had all been picked up during a traffic stop. The detained brother and sister had never been arrested. They were like any regular students. Except they are treated like criminals. Why wouldn’t they let this young mother, who hadn’t even made the decision to come to the U.S. in the first place, say goodbye to her baby? Or get a sweatshirt? It’s ridiculous and inhumane.

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