It has been a while since I’ve last written anything to update you all on my YAV year thus far. This is in part because coming up with what to say has been a bit overwhelming. As much as I like to write, finding the right words has felt a daunting task. A lot has happened within the past few weeks.
The first week in November, Lukus, Jake, and I joined the Denver and Tucson YAVs in Agua Prieta, Sonora, and in Tucson for a delegation to learn more about the realities of the US/Mexico border. It was a transformative trip, and an emotional roller coaster ride. There was joy and companionship, but mingled with plenty of sadness and anger. I am personally finding it very difficult to put my thoughts on the border delegation into written words, so I will simply say that if you’re reading this and are curious and want to ask me about it, feel free. If you want to read more about what we did, you can also take a look at the blogs of my fellow Austin YAVs. Both Lukus and Jake wrote wonderful blogs about the delegation from their own perspectives:
While I may not be sharing many words, I will share some pictures, which I think speak for themselves.
Now, on to the part I (think?) I have the words for.
Earlier in October, I was planning to write a nice, Thanksgiving themed blog around this time and detail the many things I am grateful for so far this year. After the past few weeks, that notion seems a bit laughable. I want to make clear that I do have a lot that I am grateful for, and in some respects, now more than ever, and I will get to that. But first, I have to express that I am angry.
It has been a tough past couple of weeks after Mexico and the election. I know some of you reading this might wish I would stay apolitical on this blog, but, to be blunt, that’s not possible. This isn’t simply because I’m personally invested in the political process. While that is true, and has been true for a long time (sorry, that’s just how I was raised- thanks mom and dad!) I can’t avoid talking about the election because my placement is at an immigration law nonprofit. We serve the very people Donald Trump has degraded, demeaned, and scapegoated throughout this entire election cycle.
Most of our clients are Central American minors who fled to the US without papers, and crossed the border unaccompanied. None of them are bringing violence with them; they were merely fleeing for their lives to escape horrific gang violence and ineffective protection from their governments and from law enforcement. These are children who have been through experiences that no child should ever have to go through, and we should be welcoming them with open arms.
We already inflict many injustices on asylum-seeking Central American minors as a nation. We pay Mexico to deport them, and if they reach the US, they are detained for days, weeks, even months in a mass cell they call a hielera (icebox) because it’s so cold. There are things that are morally reprehensible as is, and the hope has been that these things would begin to get better.
Instead, almost half the country voted for someone who has threatened mass deportations, who wants to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities, who wants to end DACA, and who hopes to build a giant wall along the border and make Mexico pay for it. His words and his actions have continuously made immigrants feel unsafe in the very country they came to for their safety, and his election has not helped matters.
November 9th was a difficult day in the office where we had to confront a lot of uncertainty about what comes next with immigration law, especially things like the future of DACA. Our two wonderful and hardworking attorneys had to console frightened clients.
This whole Donald Trump is President Elect thing is not a joke, friends. It’s awful, and real, and already is (and has been) affecting marginalized communities in intolerable ways.
It becomes harder to be fully grateful when you’re harboring a lot of anger towards the decisions of many people in this country.
Yet, even in the aftermath, there’s so much to be thankful for.
I am thankful for Austin Region JFON’s determination to keep doing the work we’re doing, even as things get tough. I am grateful for the new things I learn every day from the people I work with at JFON, and from the stories of our clients.
I am grateful to see how the immigration law community in Austin has come together to provide four emergency clinics on DACA and Know Your Rights prior to the inauguration. I am grateful to be able to direct our new volunteers to those clinics.
I was grateful to attend a peaceful protest last Sunday with several others in AYAVA House, where we were able to stand in solidarity with our undocumented brothers and sisters, listen to their stories, and march down congress street up to the Texas State capitol.
I was grateful to go to a craft fair that donated half of its proceeds to ARJFON in light of the election, and so happy that one of my housemates and her visiting friends came out to that event.
I was grateful to attend ARJFON’s annual dinner fundraiser last night and see the many people who support the work we’re doing; donors, volunteers, board members, and clergy from the churches that support us. I am thankful for the courage of the clients who stood up and told their stories for everyone in attendance to hear.
It’s been a hard two weeks, and I suspect it isn’t going to get easier. But amidst the turmoil, I’ve witnessed communities coming together and people jumping into action. In that respect, my cup is overflowing.