It’s been an adjustment getting back into the “real life” of being home after being in Dilley for a month. I love my family. When I got home from volunteering at the family detention center in Dilley, the first thing I did was hug my wife and son. It wasn’t just because I missed them, which I did. It was because I was so grateful that they were at home and safe and healthy. And we would be together and didn’t have to worry about being forced apart.
Too many of the women and children I had the privilege of helping while in Dilley had their families torn apart. Some by direct violence. Their husbands or father or sons, as well as mothers or daughters had been killed, forcing them to flee or risk the same fate. Other families were torn apart because they could only afford to send some of the family members to safety, leaving the rest of the family in jeopardy. I remember the face of one woman in particular, who I helped to be released on bond along with two of her children who were with her in court. The judge asked her how many children she had in total. She said four. The judge then asked her why they didn’t come as well. “We didn’t have enough money.” she replied. Her expression was one of embarrassment, fear, sadness and anger all at the same time. I have never been a mother, obviously. But as a father I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to decide to get some of your children to a place they might be safe and leaving others in danger. And how do you choose?
They are forced to choose. To choose life or risk death. To weigh who is most threatened and who could potentially stay alive. To make a choice no parent wants to even think about.
Even those families that did flee together were torn apart when they arrived, with other family members sent to distant detention centers. The father was in California, their eldest son in Arizona and mom and the kids in Texas. Direct communication between them was all but impossible, and the moms were constantly worried about their loved ones and anxious for any news.
After I got home, Father’s Day went by, and then Independence Day. All over social media I saw pictures of families celebrating, of fathers hugging children, of parents offering their kids love and being loved in return. I thought of President Obama who has no idea how lucky he is, to be able to spend those precious moments with family especially when his policies make it impossible for so many others to do so.
For all of you who have volunteered with CARA, thank you. And for all of those still on the fence, please hug your family and take the leap to join the project and the battle. Returning home will be all the sweeter for the time you spend away.
Written by Marty Rosenbluth, AILA Member and CARA Family Detention Project Volunteer
How can you help?
If you want to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to the CARA Family Detention Project page – we could really use your help.
If you would like to donate funds please see the American Immigration Council’s page dedicated to the fundraising effort.
To watch videos of the volunteers sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.