do you know why you're here today?


girl was crazy, i knew it from the start. my boss had volunteered me to accompany her, since she said she didn't want to go to the tacoma detention center alone. i didn't want to go, but of course, it wasn't like i could say no. no, sorry, i don't want to accompany her. i'm so swamped with work here at my desk! "the girl is kind of off," my boss warned me. "oh great," i said. "yeah, she kept using the word 'illegals.' she said that she had married some 'illegals' and now she is interested in immigration law." "should be interesting," i said. "yeah, it took me about forty-five minutes to break through to her," my boss said. wonderful.

virginia kind of looked like millie from freaks & geeks. she had a flat face, and shoulder-length brown hair. she drove all the way from lacey to pick me up. that means she made the drive from lacey to seattle (an hour drive), then back down to tacoma (a forty minute drive heading back toward lacey). she was one of the most socially awkward people i've ever met. i stopped dead in my tracks when i saw what kind of car she drove. it was a 2003 blue acura rsx with a spoiler. something straight out of fast & furious. the seats had leather covers with - get this - blue fucking flames on them. "i wanted to get flames on the sides [of the car], but i got a dog instead," she said.

yeah, i couldn't make this shit up.

"so, are you into...cars?" i asked. it was my turn to be the socially awkward one. "yeah, i like cars," she said, "but it's more a matter of me not wanting to drive that, or that." she was pointing at some average-looking cars. a subaru hatchback, a corolla. she talked about how cars were expensive, and how she could probably pay for law school if she didn't have a car. she told me that she went to st. martin's college and studied political science. she is now an evening student because she works full-time at a beads store in her hometown. "it sucks!" she said. "what's so bad about it?" i asked. "it's a beads store!" she said. she said she had worked there for five years, and that it wasn't very professional. hence, law school.

i asked why she was interested in immigration law. she said, "i probably won't do immigration law. i want to make money when i graduate. if i did immigration law, i'd probably do it for free." i nodded. then she added, "the other reason is that i married an illegal - i guess that's not the politically correct term - undocumented - and i learned all about immigration stuff through that experience." "how old were you when you married?" i asked. "nineteen," she said. she continued. "there were all kinds of problems. he turned out to be a huge asshole, and there was domestic violence. and he ended up having sex with a fourteen year-old. and then his sister killed his daughter..." she kind of trailed off and moved onto something else at that point. i didn't press her for anymore details. she told me that she later married another mexican. another illegal.

when we got to the courtroom, i immediately recognized the judge and federal prosecutor. it was the same two guys from my last visit to the detention center. the judge was lecturing a mexican woman about "the rules" of this country, and how this country is "a country of immigrants," and that it welcomes all people of all nations, so long as they play by "the rules." the woman was weeping. she was ordered to be deported.

the judge then called the names of four mexican men, and all of them said via the translator that they would like to represent themselves. the judge seemed more confident and condescending than the last time i had seen him. he asked the questions as though he were addressing a toddler, like in a sing-song kind of way. "do you know why you're here to-dayyy?" it started driving me nuts.

three men were deported, two were given an application for voluntary departure. the latter were given this because they had entered "illegally" at such a young age, 7 and 10, respectively. both claimed that they had come to this country alone. if their stories were true, these were fucking men, i thought. "did a coyote bring you over?" the judge asked. they said they didn't know. the judge asked if they had any family in the states. i couldn't help but wonder if it was to try and track them down, have them deported as well. both said they had aunts and uncles. both also had prior convictions. m.i.p.'s, the prosecutor read. "what's an m.i.p.?" the judge asked. "a minor in posession," the prosecutor answered. "in possession of what?" the judge asked. "alcohol."

the judge explained to them, and to me, that a voluntary departure meant that they could not apply to re-enter the united states until ten years had passed. deportation meant two ten-year bars from the state, a total of twenty years of exile. the judge got angry when he saw that the translator was conversing with the defendant. "all of this is being recorded, so you need to tell me what you're saying to him!" the judge snapped. the translator apologized and explained. i felt bad that he was talking to her that way. in my mind, she had much more skill than he had.

at the end of the hearings, i started feeling bad for everyone. i realized that the federal prosecutor and the judge had been pulling the same routine for just about everyday since the last time i visited, nearly six months ago. they go through the motions, dragging out hearing after hearing, even though they know within the first thirty seconds of each case that there's a 99% chance the defendant will be deported. it's all a big show performed in the name of national security, but the irony is, the only ones watching are the families being torn apart.

bail was posted for one man at $10,000. his family was there, and the lawyer looked at the eldest daughter, as if to ask, "can we accept this?" the daughter shrugged. the mother couldn't understand english, and the other two daughters were too young to know what was happening. she had to deal with it. the judge gave them some time to think it over. he said that he could raise the bail, but it was doubtful that he could lower it. who comes up with these numbers? i wanted to know. bail at $25,000 for an immigrant detainee. a multi-billion dollar bailout for a failed bank. fucking idiots and their fucking monopoly money.

we hit traffic on the way home. there was a big accident near boeing field. there were three helicopters, firetrucks, the whole shebang. as we drove by, i rubbernecked. the car was completely toasted to its skeleton, the kind of images i only see in pictures of war.

1 comment:

Aby said...

I had no idea about how detention centers work. I saw this movie Visitor and got some idea but it was your blog which helped me better understand it. It's pain.