Mindfulness During Difficult Times

This past Tuesday, I settled in to watch the Latino news show from the US.

Yeah, I know that I live in Mexico.

I like Univision’s spin. The news show is half an hour. I usually drink my afternoon coffee as I watch.

One of the first segments that came on was about a protest at the Broadview Detention Center, in Broadview, Illinois.

My coffee sloshed out and onto the floor when I sat up and yelled out in shock.

That’s where R was deported from. There were people protesting at the Broadview Detention Center nine years to the exact day when R was taken out of there in a van, on his way to O’Hare with a bunch of other Mexican men.

I cried hot and heavy tears during the segment. Cried like I haven’t cried in a long time about R’s deportation.

You know what brought on the waterworks?

Seeing the Broadview Detention Center in real-time. The fact that it was still standing; its meek and polite shrubs looked exactly the same.

I suddenly remembered walking towards the front entrance of that building.

It was so quiet that morning. Nine years ago, I literally heard birds chirping outside of the Broadview Detention Center. It’s on a deceptively suburban street.

Kids, I have to say that I’m not 100% in support of the demonstration that happened at Broadview this past Tuesday.

Some of it is my own baggage. When R was deported in April of 2001, it was pretty damn quiet overall in the US. Remember that this was pre-911. There wasn’t a nation-wide May 1st march for immigrant’s rights planned.

At least not as far as I knew. Our priest from our church was very focused on immigrant rights, and R and I were able to participate in local actions through him. But it was done quietly and under the radar.

I sometimes feel like a canary in the coal mine: R’s deportation was a solid warning.

But for the average US citizen, I might as well been running around yelling that the sky was falling, like Chicken Little.

So there’s a part of me that wants to say to the protesters, “Where the hell were you nine years ago when I needed you?”

I sometimes want to say that to the whole pro-immigration movement in general.

My baggage, I know.

The other piece is that the protesters blocked a van from leaving the Broadview Detention Center. It supposedly was full of deportees, on their way to O’Hare.

The night before R left the US, he was transferred from a jail in the basement of the Chicago INS, to another jail that was closer to Broadview. I no longer remember the name, and R isn’t home right now to ask.

Due to a mix-up with R having the same given name and paternal last name as another man in the prison, he almost was not put on the van going to the Broadview Detention Center that day.

If it wasn’t for R calling over and over again on the prison phone, he might have stayed in that jail for much longer than one night.

So by the time that he got to Broadview, he had one goal: To get out of the US, and onto that plane.

That was it.

He was already way too familiar with jails and detention centers in US. He wanted out.

If R had been in that white van that was being blocked, I think that my head would’ve exploded.

R just wanted to leave. At that moment, I just wanted him to go. Rip the band-aid off in one fell swoop and all that.

Listen, I truly understand the deep feelings of rage that are pounding through the majority of pro-immigration activists in the US right now.

But kids, I’m gonna say it like this: Of all the protesters outside the Broadview Detention Center this past Tuesday, how many of them ever said goodbye to a loved one inside?

How many of them waited for hours to have a minute on one side of  a bullet-proof glass window, their loved one’s hands handcuffed in front?

How many walked out of the Broadview Detention Center feeling like they could set it on fire with what they were holding down in their throat?

Peeps, the best of intentions can sometimes be as damaging as ignorance and prejudice.

For those of you in the US, I want you to keep fighting. But I also want you to be mindful, in the Buddhist sense.

If you’re going to rage against the machine, be aware of who is caught in the gears inside.


4 thoughts on “Mindfulness During Difficult Times

  1. Great post. In my former life inside the government, I sometimes helped folks get letters to ICE encouraging a speedier deportation — including for my own brother-in-law. Those detentions drag on way too long and cause emotional hemophilia for everyone involved…

    One woman I met made calls to the jail from a payphone using my credit card because she was terrified of being found and deported herself; she just wanted him back in Brazil as soon as possible so that she could leave the US and they could be reunited.

    Another woman whose husband was detained had their 12-year-old citizen daughter call and visit because she was afraid that she’d also get caught and deported if she even called. The poor kid had been doing that for 3 months when they finally asked for the letter.

    I also think about how knowing the deportation date was so important for the folks I assisted, both because it meant that they would get back a measure of control and for simple logisical reasons like having someone waiting at the airport to pick them up (usually an airport far from their hometowns)…


  2. G,
    Thank you for writing this. At this point, I don’t know if I would have had the immediate thoughts about “the ones caught in the gears” as you did. Thank you for reminding me to constantly re-evaluate. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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