Highs and Lows by Heather K.

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dilleyHere we are, on the eve of our last day in Dilley. We left the detention center at 8pm and headed back to the hotel for an 8:15pm roundtable meeting with the other volunteers and some of the on-the-ground staff from the CARA Pro Bono Project.

At the roundtable, the OTG staff asked us to share the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of our weeks. It seemed as though many of our ‘lows’ are the same – specifically, it’s difficult and frustrating to spend so much time with these individuals and then just send them off to fend for themselves throughout the rest of the asylum process. We do our best to help them prepare for their Credible Fear Interviews but, because of the sheer volume of clients in the detention center, we cannot accompany every person to their actual interview. And, even if these families receive a ‘positive’ at this stage of the process, they still have a long and difficult road ahead of them; most of them will have to wait several years before they know whether or not they will receive asylum status and the opportunity to stay in the US.

The group agrees that it feels sort of strange to be at this point in the trip. While we have completed four full days at the detention center, we still have a long day ahead of us. It’s difficult to describe, but there are moments where it feels like the hours and days are flying away from us. There are others where it feels like time couldn’t pass any slower. There are even moments where I swear that time is standing still – specifically, during those meetings in which it feels like we’re almost forcing these women and their children to relive some of the worst moments of their pasts. It’s almost as if you can see the re-traumatization occurring as these women and children remember, repeat, and relive the details of the brutalities they have suffered. During these meetings, it’s difficult to remember that this is, unfortunately, a necessary part of the process. Even when we return back to the hotel, it’s difficult to look back on the day without feeling incredibly sad and a little bit defeated.

Over the past four days, we have learned an unbelievable amount – about the women and families in the detention center, the issues forcing them from their homes, the situation in Dilley, and the US asylum system. Here at Dilley, we’ve each personally witnessed resilience the likes of which we have never seen before. However, we also understand that many of these families will eventually be sent back to the places and atrocities from which they came. Thus, we’re heading into tomorrow with tempered optimism – we know that we will meet with amazing and inspiring families who have persevered through unimaginable horrors. Despite everything they’ve been through, these women still manage to remain strong for their children and try their best to give them a semblance of normalcy throughout their time at the detention center. We have one more day to help these families and each one of us will make every minute count.