It’s been a couple of days.
When it was unveiled that the Catholic Church was going to accept an offer from Pima County to utilize an empty wing of a Juvenile Detention Center to house asylees who had just been released from detention, my skin just crawled. We all knew they had been looking for a facility, but none among us could have imagined they would take these vulnerable families just released from lock-down facilities onto a compound that is an operating detention center.
They spun a story: “It’s all we have. Nothing else could’ve worked. We can make it pretty. We have no options. The families will love it.” And, the most surprising one: “We are the only game in town that has been caring for families.”
The compound is in an industrial area that is apart from the life of the community: hidden from anyone who might not want to see migrants. It is surrounded by concrete, fencing, and guards. It is not hospitable.
It is a Prison.
Several community members spoke out and went into meetings to change the plan: to ask for a better plan than this one. But every word fell on deaf ears. The Catholic and County Powers had already made up their mind, and they were just going through the motions: the appearance of listening when words only fell on deaf ears. (In fact, they went from this meeting of “listening” to a prescheduled press conference to announce they will be moving into the detention complex.)
Even when a courageous young woman spoke out about what it is like to be in these lock-up facilities and how horrible it is for us to think about sending migrants to another such place for “care;” even when she reminded the powers-of-the-moment that they are complicit in causing more pain; even when she boldly called for a new solution…they didn’t hear. Instead, the Power tried to stop her from talking further. Powerful words are sometimes too hard for the powerful to hear.
There is a better solution…there are many. But sometimes a better way is not the goal. Sometimes the goal is too dark to say out loud. Whatever the end game, it is being “won” on the souls of little children and their parents.
And so my skin crawls and I am creeped out. And yet I still believe in hospitality of the best kind, and in purity of souls, and in the possibility of words bringing about a better way.
That didn’t happen these last few days. But there’s still today and tomorrow and the next day.