This article is written by one of our volunteer attorneys who visited a family detention center in Karnes, TX:
When you hear about immigration, it is easy to think, “Why don’t they just go back?” However, after meeting with detained families for a week in Karnes, Texas, that is a question I will never ask.
I heard about death threats from members of different ethnic groups, saw scars from a machete where the woman’s husband cut her to keep her from escaping his abuse, listened to a woman explain that extortionists knew where her son’s school was and what time it got out, son, and read articles about a gang member who killed my client’s sister-in-law and threatened my client. One woman told another volunteer in our group, “If I lose my case, you might as well bury me now.”
These aren’t women coming to follow dreams of economic prosperity; they are all here because felt they had no other option to keep themselves and their children safe. For the babies, toddlers, and children- they have no choice. But if they are forced to return, not only are they subject to the same risks their families were fleeing from, but they faced increased targeting as gangs view those who flee as disrespecting the authority of the gang. As a man who runs a morgue in Honduras was reported to have put it, “They return just to die.”
Threats from gangs and spousal abusers aren’t just empty threats, either. For example, one of my clients (with a three year old, adorable daughter) was threatened after her in-laws testified against the man who murdered their daughter. The man was a gang member who everyone in the town knew had also killed another man. The threats were no passing remarks, and she knew she had to leave the country. The police can’t protect the women and children, and they know it. One woman told me she had never reported the domestic violence to the police, but I later realized that she didn’t report it because the police wouldn’t let her. They told her the abuse did not count because she wasn’t married to the abuser. Besides, she told me, he had a store and gave the police free food sometimes.