It’s one thing to have knowledge about large-scale issues, but it’s another to see the face of those affected by the issue up close.
I can recall vaguely how my understanding of immigration has evolved over the years. When I was younger, I remember hearing the term “illegal immigrant” and thinking of all of the negative connotations that went with it. Immigrants broke the law, and then they took American’s jobs.
As I grew a little bit older, I was better able to empathize for illegal migrants, as I gained a better understanding of why they wanted to flee to America. They wished for a better life, they ran from poverty, they had family in the United States, etc. However, even with these insights, I lacked the capacity to get a solid grip.
It has never really occurred to me that migrants felt guilty for what they had done. I didn’t know they were stigmatized by other Mexicans after being deported and returned to Mexico. I had no idea the level of brutality migrants faced and the dehumanizing measures they suffered after being captured. Worst of all, I didn’t stop to consider that deported migrants accepted this treatment because they thought they deserved it.
In the last three days I’ve seen the passageways, resembling cattle chutes with the one-way turn staffs, where deported migrants are pushed through when they’re returned. I’ve heard stories of families being separated. I’ve stood in the spot where one Mexican was shot merely for throwing rocks over the wall. I’ve seen the faces of newly deported migrants, sad, defeated.
With each interview we complete, we learn so much about the overall challenges with immigration, along with what it looks like on a personal level. I think I need some time to let it all process.
But for now, we’re learning, we’re laughing, we’re crying and we’re sleeping very little.