After going through the entrance ritual, which includes handing over our driver’s licenses in exchange for a locker key, the other volunteers and I put all of our belongings into our lockers.
We then sat in the waiting room for what seemed like forever before we went through the metal detector, turned our pockets inside out, and walked through two locked doors into the meeting room.
I first met with Rachel (not her real name) from Eritrea. Rachel is a 26-year-old woman who found her way from her country of origin to the United States with a group, but not the caravan we have read so much about. She described how it was to walk in the cold and rain, without food or shelter.
I cannot fathom the bravery necessary to accomplish what she achieved. Rachel wants and needs an attorney to assist her in posting bond and scheduling a hearing. Hopefully this will occur.
I will send Rachel some book titles so she can get approval. I asked the guard in the meeting room how we go about this and he explained that Rachel needs to write a “kite,” which I guess means a request for approval of a particular title.
Paperback books only, sent directly by a book store or online seller. If not meeting these rules, books are returned to sender.
During our visit one of the volunteers I attend with asked the guard for a piece of paper and a pencil. All of the visiting volunteers were suddenly quiet, while the guard made a phone call to get permission and we practically fell out of our chairs when he gave her the paper and pencil.
About 30 minutes later, he heard from a different source and demanded, in a nice way, that she return the paper and pencil to him.
He must have been new on the job since all of us know that we are not allowed to take notes.
My second visit was with Emma, from Jamaica.
Emma told me how disappointed she was that a support letter and documents sent by a friend of hers arrived the day she was at her hearing. When her bond hearing date was announced to her, she only had three or four days to prepare, hence the irony of receiving the items she needed while she was at the hearing.
Without the needed documents, her hearing was cancelled.
I was told at a past visit with a different detainee that the detention center did not provide transportation for her to the day of her hearing so she missed her hearing.
In a different case, the paperwork the detainee needed was held in the mail room rather than being delivered to her.
When we correspond with detainees, we provide a form that asks for a list of the names of eight others who would like a visit or to receive letters from a volunteers. The list I received this time had six names with Honduras as their country of origin.
I’ve not seen so many from the same country in the past.
Karla H. Edwards