This article is written by one of our volunteer attorneys who visited a family detention center in Karnes, TX:
Imagine looking into to the eyes of a child that is crying. She is not crying because she fell off her bike. She is not crying because they are being dropped off at day care for the first time. She is crying because she is tired, thirsty, and stuck in a detention center.
I’ve been meeting with her mother for over an hour now, in a small, plain room. She sat quietly, scribbling on a piece of paper I gave her, while her mother explained to me why they fled from Guatemala (threats from the local gang, whose member killed her sister-in-law), until she finally got too impatient and began to cry.
In another meeting, it was the mother who cried, recounting the time she realized she had to escape from her abusive husband. The time he cut her hand with a machete when she tried to climb up a tree to escape from his abuse. Then, it was the two year-old son who rubbed her shoulder, sensing his mother’s pain.
We were at a detention center in Karnes, Texas. I was there to provide legal assistance. These women and children have all been detained in “family residential centers”—secured buildings that look and feel much more like a prison than anything fit for families. School age children do attend class, but those too young are with their mothers 24/7, including while the mothers meet with legal counsel. The families share cramped living quarters. The families were so happy to have legal representation that they would often line up to meet with us long before they were slotted to meet with us. They would give us notes and tell us about other women who needed help. There was great need, but the impact of representation was huge.