As we prepare for the day’s travel to Dilley, Texas, there are a lot of emotions floating among the group. We are feeling excited, nervous, and grateful – yesterday, we all thought that there was a real chance we would not make it to Dilley because of the impending snowstorm. Our original flights were cancelled early in the afternoon and, while the Clinic team worked diligently to get us flights out of Buffalo, we encountered cancellation after cancellation. At one point, when travel prospects were looking particularly bleak, we even considered renting a big van and driving the entire twenty-five hours to Dilley! After a couple hours of scheduling and re-scheduling, however, we managed to re-book our flights for later today and are waiting at the airport, ready to take off, with fingers crossed that there are no more delays or cancellations. With luck on our side, we will arrive in San, Antonio around 10:30 p.m. tonight and will drive one more hour to reach Dilley.
Our group is composed of two supervising attorneys, six student attorneys, two translators, and one social work student. For the past two weeks, we have met as a class and learned from Professor Nicole Hallett about the asylum processes, detention center conditions, country of origin conditions, and trauma. Most of the women and children that we will encounter will have come from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These countries are plagued by gang violence, poverty, and corruption and regularly rank among the world’s worst in terms of homicide rates and violence against women. As such, the families that we will encounter in the detention center have suffered unspeakable horrors, both before leaving their homes and in their journeys to the United States.
While we have prepared as best as possible for what we will encounter at the South Texas Family Residential Center, there are still a lot that is unknown. For example, we have been told by the legal staff working out of the detention center that they are currently seeing fewer individuals at the center than usual, for reasons that are unclear and potentially concerning. Additionally, in the midst of the government shutdown, we are certain to encounter many individuals who have been working for weeks without pay and who have no idea of when they will receive their next paycheck.
Our journey begins in earnest tomorrow and work at the detention center starts at 7:30 a.m. We are anticipating long days and are prepared to handle whatever the legal staff at the detention center needs from us. Before our journey begins, we would like to thank the people who have made this trip possible. Particularly, we want to thank all of the generous donors who contributed to funding our travels. If you are interested in donating to the trip, please click the link below:
If you would like to keep up with our time in Dilley, check back regularly as we will be posting daily.