It's hard not to compare circumstances....I leave the Respite Center, filled with exhausted people just released from detention, and get in the car. I've put in a full day of near constant physical activity and I feel pleased with myself.
I drive to the deli, choose whatever I want for dinner, go to the hotel, with its private shower, hot and cold running water.....fridge and microwave, big screen TV and more channels than I can possibly watch. I don't eat everything I've gotten and throw the rest away.
And after a week or ten days I head home....to my house with heat and air conditioning, my car, my pets and family. Everyone is in good health. I have a grandson. I do laundry as needed, and get whatever I need/want from a supermarket. I can mow my lawn, tend my garden, clear my snow, enjoy the peace and quiet of my neighborhood. No gangs. No drugs. No kidnappers or death squads. No corrupt police. No bombings of local busses.
I have a computer and access to as much information and entertainment as I want. And my coffee--well, it is excellent and I can prepare it whenever I want.
But I can't forget the people arriving daily at the Respite Center. They are given a mylar blanket to protect against the ferocious air conditioning (they call the dentention center "the ice box"). Their shoelaces and belts are confiscated. Whatever belongings they have are taken, put in a small plastic bag, and labeled. They are given cold sandwiches and chips to eat. They get a shower maybe every 4-5 days. And when they finally get released to us at the Respite Center, they are cold, tired, dirty, hungry. They miss the family they've left behind--and all of them have left family behind. They want to be hopeful about joining family members in the US but they won't be able to work legally and they won't be allowed to travel more than 70 miles. They have to check in with ICE regularly.
Bag for possessions, about 8x10 inches.
What can we offer them at the Respite Center? A set of clothes that are clean and hopefully that fit...but nothing special. Rarely shoes. Sometimes shoe laces. Not belts. A bowl of hot soup, the first hot food they have had since being detained. A quick shower, since there are so many people waiting. A mat to sleep on. No home, no yard, no pets, no supermarket, no big TV, no privacy. Hope that the intake interviewers can arrange bus tickets and an escort to the station the next day. And a very uncertain future.
I am generally tolerant, fair, and open to all sorts of viewpoints. But I don't understand how people can not care about this. I understand caring without being able to do anything--I believe we serve in various ways at different times and as we are able. But to not care.....that I cannot fathom.
Do we not understand that it is only the good fortune of being born in the US that makes the difference?