Mother Campbell, Rector at Christ Church, Sag Harbor, recently traveled to Brownsville,Texas and Matamoros, Mexico to take part in “Witness at Brownsville, TX”, an ongoing protest highlighting the growing humanitarian crisis among refugees and asylum seekers at the U.S./Mexico border. The protest began on Jan. 12 and will “continue as long as citizens of conscience appear”, says Joshua Rubin, the “Witness at Tornillo” organizer. The below excerpt is from Mo. Campbell’s report on Jan 12. To read the full text, visit: www.dioceseli.org/CommunityJustice.
"We were a group of 150-200 from 30 states including Alaska and Wisconsin. I met several people from Washington State. All very compassionate. Some veterans of many causes and some here for the first time. This morning we are going to the courts to sit and to witness. We were briefed yesterday about the process. There is a huge need for pro-bono Spanish-speaking lawyers who can stay at the border to see the trials through. Several lawyers briefed us on the protocol.
Most of it is arbitrary. Two attorneys from our household were turned away because they were wearing open-toed sandals. The interpreters speak Spanish. In Guatemala there are 23 native languages. The courts speak none of them. In some countries the people speak Mayan and the court only speaks English or Spanish. The judges appear via a television screen.
In the briefing lawyers said that the judge through an interpreter, asks if the Asylum Seeker understands what is happening. If they say no the judge repeats the same information in the same words—usually by the third time the seeker cries “uncle” and agrees. This gets them into the system. They cannot ever say they did not understand because in the record they have stated that they do. In our briefing, the presenters said that this formula to get people into the system is modeled on the system that incarcerates black men. Gets them to admit they understand, gets them for one minor violation and the next time puts them in jail. I have never felt so hopeless about our government and the evil that permeates all of this suffering. After we crossed back into the United States, I thought I could have offered communion, but I was stymied, these people needed real bread before sacramental bread."