shutterstock_151907147Driving home from a week in Artesia, New Mexico to Glenwood Springs, Colorado and all the emotions start overwhelming me. I think because the need was so constant and so immediate while I was there with the families and undaunted volunteers I never had time to stop and acknowledge the emotional side to everything. But as I drive, looking at the dramatic desert scenery, I can’t keep from crying for the women and children who will never get to see what I am seeing out my car window or feel the safety and protection I feel from harm.

Talking with them, having personal interactions, touching them, hugging them, playing with the children made them feel human. The children are sweet and smart and funny – All of them hungry and thirsty and scared. I could see their appreciation for our work in their eyes and tears.  However, they face a constant barrage of harshness – harsh voices from officers, harsh living conditions, harsh weather, harsh medical care, etc. These women and children are desperate.

They left unfathomable atrocities and suffering for America, for a chance of something else – something good. Yet while here in America, they are treated like farm animals to be dealt with and put in order, without care for their feelings. There is no humanity from the government. We can tell them about their rights to counsel and help them tell their story and help them be recognized as human beings with rights and dreams and fears. I wish I could have done more while I was there.

This experience has forever changed me. My young children want to know the names of kids I met and why they can’t play with certain toys. They want to know where the mothers and children sleep and what they eat. They want to know why they would have to go back to a place where they will be hurt. They cry too, and my answers are not justifiable for them. They cannot understand why this would happen. I will return because the work is not over.

Written by Jennifer Smith, AILA member, Colorado Chapter