Reflection on Community Night with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
By Bev Stotz, Secretary of the BSC Board of Directors
Once again BSC has given me the opportunity to check my privilege. I have never had to wonder how I could escape an oppressive Government, a lifetime of war, the devastating after effects of a natural disaster, or the constant threat of famine and disease. I have read plenty of books that had stories of people dealing with these issues but they usually had happy endings, happy being relative.
Spending time with Alex and the other wonderful people at Las Americas showed me that the current stories are very real, extremely gloomy, and almost always without a happy ending. Stories of people who left everything they have ever known to come the “Land of Opportunity” by whatever means they could only to have the door slammed in their faces. Single parents bringing children with the hopes of a better life being separated upon arrival. Stories of those who have a glimmer of hope by being moved from a detention center to a place where they can get a meal, a shower, and transportation to someone they know to await the 1-2 years for their hearing. Many wait out this process in detention facilities that are worse than your local animal shelter. Seeing the statistics for granting asylum, the odds are rarely in their favor. Next, they wait out the appeals process. Or not. Either way, a vast majority of these people will go back frightened and dejected.
Once upon a time I wondered why everyone doesn’t come “through the front door” like many friends I have who are naturalized citizens. I was obviously ignorant. I had no idea how expensive an effort it is to immigrate to the US, nor was I aware of how long it takes. And many of these people are trying to escape from unspeakable horrors and life-threatening situations. They don’t have tons of money. They are in survival mode.
I appreciate the efforts of the staff at Las Americas. They work tirelessly, day in and day out to help people. They can go weeks without one bit of good news. But they show up every day strong in their conviction to provide assistance. Sometimes that assistance carries with it a glimmer of hope for someone seeking a better life, often times not. For someone like me who is motivated by positive results, this sounds like some kind of hell. My admiration for these folks is extreme.
So to those who say “build that wall” or make some other uncompassionate statement, I have to ask you – if your family members were being killed, your home and neighborhood destroyed, when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from, when you are surrounded by death and destruction, when the only way you can save yourself and your children is to escape, what would you do? I’m listening.