By: Bob Mosher
Fr Bob Mosher is a Columban priest working in El Paso, Texas, at the US/Mexico border
I'm just back from visiting a mother separated from her nine-year-old son, who turns ten on Tuesday. She gets to talk to him over the phone once a week. He's in New York, she's here in the El Paso camp for detained migrants.
"There's no greater pain," she tells me, tears creeping out from her eyes, slowly running down her cheeks, "than to be apart from your child. We all feel it, all the mothers here who have been separated from their children. It's terrible. There's nothing worse." We talk about her life before trying to enter the US, her murdered husband, her fears for her child if he is forced, with her, to return to Honduras.
"I don't want him to grow up there," she tells me. "I'd be afraid for him, for how he would turn out, with so much gang activity there, in every part of my country. I'm not here looking for a good time," she added, "or just to travel. I'm not here to sponge off the government or anyone. I work hard, I have a degree that I earned at nights, I'm willing to do any kind of work in order to get ahead."
She has no idea when she will get to see a judge, and explain to him what drove her to leave her country. She's been told that accommodations are being built at the nearby military base, Fort Bliss, for reuniting children with their parents, while keeping them imprisoned, awaiting their day in court. "As if we were criminals," she says, her fingers playing with the plastic identification band that is part of her prison wear, along with the prison suit, the laceless sandals. But then she smiles. "At least we'll be together again. I believe that God will help us. God will answer my prayers."
I tell her that she's not alone, that many people are praying for her, and contributing their resources to the groups that fight to free her and reunite her with her son. She smiles, gratefully. But then a shadow crosses her face again. "I wish I could make him a little cake. I'm going to try to call him and talk to him on Monday, before his birthday. If I can't, I'll try again on Wednesday." She already knows that she is not permitted to call anyone on Tuesday, apparently.
All these little obstacles, little cuts, are made excruciatingly huge by people trying to make other people like her suffer, to punish her for the crime of looking for humanity, and help.
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