Hello neighbors. I wanted to share an experience I had a few weeks ago. First, let me say, it happened at the Atlanta Detention Center. This is the local home of ICE -Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I don’t feel afraid when I go there because I’ve gotten my US citizenship. I’m white. I have a typical American accent. You get the picture. I went to be present with a family, with an individual, a young man in his 30s in fear that he will be deported back to a country he does not know. He has a green card. He also has a mental illness. During the time he was being diagnosed and in finding the right kind of medication, a police officer chose to arrest him while he was on the way to hospital, rather than to take him to the hospital. This changed his life forever and that of his family.
Even though the video of his arrest is now used in training about working with individuals with mental health, this young man is at risk for losing everything. He is a model case of what NOT to do and yet, he is still being punished.
So, I went to the deportation hearing. Just to be present. Just to sit in the courtroom and give support. There were several others who came to support this young man and his family. And, like me, none of them had met before. We were asked to come by a fellow friend, activist and ally.
The judge asked us to wait outside until the case was called. We sat in the waiting room and introduced ourselves to one another. When I said I was from Compassionate Atlanta, an organization that aims to raise the voice of compassion and share our common humanity, the young man’s older sister began to cry. Then, so did I. She said they were happy tears that there were people who cared. I felt bad for crying too, but my heart truly aches when I see the way so many people are treated. And I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude when I see people showing up.
The hearing didn’t take place that day. So we all went back to our daily lives. Including this young man who is now taking medication that works for him, has a job and is ready to move forward in his life in the only home he has known. To keep being my neighbor.
I don’t know all of you reading this, but you are my neighbors. I hope that you get the chance to shed tears or maybe share laughter, either way, genuine, authentic emotion with someone who you don’t know, but understand, because we are all in this together.