On Tuesday, Henry and I, along with a deacon who works with Henry on the border, went to the first hearing for our young Venezuelan friend in the Eloy Detention Center. It felt like taking baby steps, because the lawyer (hired by Cruzando Fronteras) told us that this was just the first of many steps in the process. Indeed, all that happened at the hearing was that she admitted to the charges (entering the country illegally) and asked to be considered for asylum, based on the United Nations Convention against Torture. She now has a month to put her case together. She will come before the judge again at the end of February.
We went to the hearing as visible supporters, for her sake and, even more, so that she would stand out in the crowd that came before the judge that morning. There were ten people on the judge’s docket for the morning, and we were the only outsiders there. That means that those other nine people had no lawyers or family or friends—at least locally—to support and represent them. (It could also mean that any friends and family they might have were not willing to enter the detention center for fear of whether they would get out!)
It was an education for me, on many levels. There were many layers of security, and Henry told me ahead of time what I could not bring in (no jewelry beyond a wedding band, no wallet, no phone—just an ID, which I had to surrender in return for a red visitor badge).
Walking through the corridors, the painted cinderblock walls reminded me of many public schools I have visited or attended. The courtroom looked just like the small one where I served on jury duty in Grant County, New Mexico. The process was very similar—with the addition of a translator. The detainees are dressed in uniform clothing, but they are at least a dark green in color rather than prison orange. (In fact, the style reminded me of medical scrubs.)
We could not speak to or touch our friend; only smiles were allowed. But our presence brought tears to her eyes. She knows she’s not alone, on this long, lonely journey in which she has already taken thousands upon thousands of steps.
None of us know what lies ahead. All we can do is take one or two steps at a time. Of course, that’s all we can do in our own lives as well. We may think we have it all planned out, but life often throws us curve balls, especially(!) when we become too certain. Instead, this process is reminding me that it’s best to live fully in the present moment. When we embrace what the day brings (and work for tomorrow, but don’t count on it), we can more easily find joy and gratitude in what is.
If I had focused on the fact that our friend didn’t get out, I would have felt Tuesday was a failure. Because I focused on tears and smiles, and that the court process worked as expected, I feel that Tuesday was a blessing.
On what blessings can you focus today?